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'Korean Wave' leaves its mark in Asia in 2004
July 8, 2005
The cultural phenomenon known as the "Korean Wave" or Hallyu left an indelible mark throughout Asia in 2004, fanning optimism about the country's potential as a culture powerhouse.
No name in the Korean Wave came close to the mesmerizing power of Bae Yong-joon. His simple gestures made numerous Japanese middle-aged women swoon and cry. A recent photo exhibition featuring his images in Korea and Japan drew unprecedented media coverage.
Other Korean Hallyu stars were well received among Asians, who suddenly discovered the charm of Korean pop culture, especially TV dramas, movies and music. The popularity fanned the first annual increase in foreign tourists in six years, most of them from Japan, and splashed Korea's image across Asia.
However, the Korean Wave was not just a heartthrob. Another factor that stood out was the booming film industry, which boasts a wider variety of high-quality works and talented directors.
From the very beginning of the year, Korea's silver screen was awash with locally produced hit films. Korean blockbusters "Silmido" and "Taegukgi" sold more than 10 million tickets, respectively, breaking previous box office records. Both featured top-rated actors and used seasoned cinematographic techniques, garnering rave reviews from critics and earning record profits. For the domestic market, even cash-rich Hollywood production houses struggled to guard their positions in the face of the giddy ascent of Korean movies.
On the artistic front, Korean filmmakers got awards in the world's major film festivals like Cannes, Berlin and Venice. "Renaissance" is a buzzword used to describe the Korean movie industry's current strength of high-spirited directors and seasoned actors.
The musical industry proved its commercial viability, solidifying its position as one of the most favored entertainment genres in Korea. The influx of Broadway imports and adaptations helped the market grow at brisk pace and expand the audience base.
The year 2004 was a big moment for the Korean art scene, with the country's museums and biennales in the spotlight. The Busan Biennale kicked off the string of international art events in Korea, opening May 22 with its sculpture exhibition and ending in October with its Sea Festival. Only the second official Busan Biennale, the exhibition had a total of 1.34 million visitors.
The Gwangju Biennale had an official visit by President Roh Moo-hyun and former President Kim Dae-jung during its run from September to November. The biennale in the capital of South Jeolla Province caused a stir in art circles with its "viewer-participant" system, where "non-professional art spectators" and artists worked together to create the exhibition works.
Galleries and museums in Seoul organized special exhibitions to show off their best works to the members of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) attending the general conference in the Korean capital. The highlight of museum events was the long-anticipated opening of Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in Hannam-dong.
Opening on Oct. 19, the museum was built by star architects Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel and Rem Koolhaas. Meanwhile, the National Museum of Korea waved goodbye to Gyeongbok Palace and is moving to a new address in the Yongsan area. The National Museum will open next fall.