Monday, February 02, 2009

2009's Hallyu Wave (한류)

The Hallyu Wave, also called the Korean Wave or Hallyuwood, refers to the popularity of Korean pop culture that's spreading like a- wait for it- wave. Now, being a Korean, I don't really see a change in popularity, since I've always watched Korean shows and known who the top Korean celebrities are. Moreover, my friend Wikipedia tells me that the Hallyu wave started in the early 1990's. I was eight years old in 1990, which means I don't really remember what life was like before this so-called Wave.

An interesting thing, to me, is the way the word was translated. 한류 in Korean is literally 'han' (한), which means Korean, and 'lyu' (류), which means wave. I don't know what happened to the 'han' part and why it became 'hal.' Hanlyu is harder to say, I suppose, and with proper Korean pronunciation, it does sounds like Hallyu.

A huge reason that I became immersed in Korean T.V. is because of a drama that came out in 2000, the year I turned 18. It's called
가을동화, translated to "Autumn Fairy Tale" or "Autumn in My Heart." The Korean title is much less annoying, and I think a closer translation would have been "An Autumn Tale." It's not a fairy tale, exactly, it's a tale that takes place in Autumn!

That show made me crush madly on the lead actors (both of them- they're both adorable, I promise) and I thought the lead actress was gorgeous. (I've since come to dislike her, as her character in 그들이 사는 세상, or "The World They Live In," is hateful and stupid- sorry, Song Hye-Gyo (송혜교), you're still beautiful, even with that unfortunate mushroom-cap haircut. Your stylist hates you.) The show was as melodramatic as it's possible to get, wringing tears with every single plot point. The reason it was so popular (at one point, 46% of Korea was watching it) was because it was the first of its kind. If it aired now, it wouldn't score as well, since drama-producers have exploited the "love that can't happen because of family secrets" plots and regurgitated shows with similar stories to the point that viewers are numb. At the time, though, it was amazing. I think I cried during every episode, and I really wanted both Song Seung-Hun (송승헌) or Won Bin (원빈) to hurry up and star in another drama so I could continue to admire them unabashedly. Look at the prettiness:

Ignore the horrible '90's hair and lipstick ... and totally white face powder on the girls. Attractive cast even with those faults, though, no?

"Autumn Tale" was the first of four dramas directed by Yoon Suk-Ho (윤석호). Collectively, the four dramas are called "Endless Love" (oh, the sap). They are:

- Autumn Tale (
- Winter Sonata (겨울연가)
- Summer Scent (여름향기)
- Spring Waltz (봄의 왈츠)

I really think it's these four dramas that mark the beginning of the Hallyu Wave, particularly in Japan. "Winter Sonata" shot Bae Yong-Joon (배용준) to stardom- he's still immensely popular in Japan, almost ridiculously so.

There's the history of the Hallyu Wave, which allows me to move into the present and future. This year, there are more Koreans than ever in upcoming Hollywood movies. I almost worked on one of them, but the timing didn't work out, which is too bad. With so many Koreans debuting on the Hollywood stage this year, I feel as though the stage is set for the Hallyu Wave to make its way across the Pacific and land in the U.S. (not just L.A. and Orange County). The films and its Korean actors:

- "Blood: The Last Vampire," with Jun Ji-Hyun, her American name being Gianna Jun (
전지현), to be released March, 2009:

- "Dragonball Evolution," with Park Joon-Hyung (
박준형), to be released April 8, 2009:

- "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," with Daniel Henney (okay, he's only half-Korean, but his popularity started in Korea, so go with me), to be released May 1, 2009:

- "Ninja Assassin," with Rain (정지훈, or 비), to be released July, 2009:

- "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," with Lee Byung-Hun (이병헌), to be released August 7, 2009:

- "1949," with Song Hye-Gyo (송혜교), to be released sometime in 2010 (they're still in pre-production):

And these are just the movies that I actually know about. There are probably more! (Note that I only know about movies with extensive VFX work ... at least I know my field, right??)

Of all the actors above, I think Daniel Henney's going to hit the jackpot. He's attractive to Asians and non-Asians: tall (he was a model), chiseled, the kind of nose Koreans ask their plastic surgeons for, great smile
. See what a British father and a Korean mother can do?:

Makes me want to marry a white man so I can have pretty babies.

I know that Lucy Liu and Kelly Hu are quite popular, but they're both women. The popular Asian men are the ones that are good martial artists- Jackie Chan, Jet Li. Not really known for their attractiveness, not really heartthrobs. None of them Korean, either. (Not that it matters, since white people can't tell the difference between Korean and Chinese.)

The only worry I have is that of all the actors listed above, with the exception of the two women (Song Hye-Gyo and Jun Ji-Hyun), Daniel Henney is the least accomplished actor. That's my nice way of saying boy's hot but he can't act. Hopefully the 'hot' makes up for the 'can't act.'

Still, I predict a good year for Koreans in Hollywood. I'll post up industry news as I hear it, but only the stuff I care about.

I do hear that the VFX for X-Men are lookin' good...


william February 2, 2009 at 9:17 PM  

not only is daniel henney a horrocious actor, i suspect that he's quite dumb. the man's beautiful, but, if you watch kim sam soon carefully, he has an english conversation with kim sun ah, and she's talking about marcel proust, and he's all confused at first and the exclaims, 'oh! marcel frost' like marcel frost is a real person. or even a frenchman.

hallyu is pronounced hallyu because of the 'ㄴ' ending in '한' and the beginning 'ㄹ' in '류.' any combination of a 'ㄴ/ㄹ' ending consonant and a beginning 'ㄴ/ㄹ' consonant equates to a 'ㄹ' sound, hence, "hallyu," not "hanlyu."

the same goes for 전라 province (jeolla) and 한라 mountain (halla). i suspect it's also the reason 이효리 says "dance all-ight" as opposed to "dance all night" in u-go-girl.

not lecturing, just letting you know^^


jeanny February 3, 2009 at 10:30 AM  

Daniel Henney: I know. So sad ... the man's so pretty- it's a waste.

Yay, 전라도! I'm from 전라 북도, so I have a warm fuzzy feeling about the province.

For me, it's a matter of principle. In English, words like "through" and "knife" have silent letters. Couldn't "Hallyu" have a silent 'n' in it?

Honestly, I think they wanted it to look as much like 'Hollywood' as possible. Hence the double L's.


la_flash February 21, 2009 at 7:19 PM  

First off, what does Hallyu mean?

Second, I thought Daniel acted so well in Kim Sam Soon. Haha. His character is not that much to be praised about in the first place. Hence, I'm cutting him some slack.

Third, I hope that Jang Geun Seok also make it in the hollywood. I'm really impressed with his performance in Beethoven Virus.

jeanny February 21, 2009 at 11:36 PM  

I believe 'Hallyu' is a very incorrect Romanization, because the Korean word is made up of two parts that are separately read as 'han' and 'lyu.'

"Han" means 'Korean,' while "lyu" means storm/wave/tempest.

You're cutting Daniel Henney too much slack! I thought he was the worst actor in "Sam-Soon" ... he was the prettiest, though!

I have to admit, I'm not a fan of Jang Geun-Seuk at all. He was so awful in "Hwang Jini" that I lost all affection for him. And he looks like he's wearing makeup all the time, which is totally odd to me. I'm sure once he becomes a "world" star in Korea, he'll crossover into Hollywood. Good luck to him-- I support everyone from the motherland, whether I like them or not.

la_flash February 28, 2009 at 5:52 AM  

It's good to learn new things everyday...

So it's Han-lyu... wow.

I haven't watched Hwang Jini yet that's why I can't relate to what you have said about his awful performance... Haha.

How about the new F4? What can you say about them?

jeanny February 28, 2009 at 10:30 PM  

I only watched three episodes of "Boys Before Flowers," and it struck me as being a lot like "Goong." Very high-school, very melodramatic, fun eye candy, but nothing deep or really emotional (to me). I might be old and jaded, though! The high school-age kids I know all love it.

la_flash March 9, 2009 at 4:59 AM  

hey jeany, have you heard about the suicide of an actress who played as one of the "mean girls" in BOF?

that's a sad news!

i've read that it's becoming a norm among korean actors.

why is it so?

jeanny March 9, 2009 at 12:47 PM  

I did hear. Jang Ja-Yeon (장자연) killed herself on March 7. She's the same age as me, and it just makes me so sad.

There's a lot of pressure in Korean society- to conform, to succeed, to be thin, to marry well, to have smart kids, to avoid scandal- and I think that because depression is considered a weakness, too many Koreans don't seek help. It's terrible.