Korea’s Culture Shock: The Recent Influence of Korea’s Culture Over Western Society

September 5, 2015

There’s no denying Korea’s on Western culture over the past few years. By now very few Westerners will have encountered some element of South Korean culture, whether it be via fashion, film, technology or the unique genre of music known as K-Pop. Korea has become increasingly prominent in these industries, among others, in recent years thanks to the ever-growing affect of globalisation. As can be noticed in the fashion industries of places like Harajuku and Shibuya in Japan, other regions in Asia draw inspiration from various elements of each other’s cultures – fashion ideas vastly different to those in the West. As stated in the Ryoo reading, “the Korean wave is a sign of how a country considered ‘in-between’ (or sub-periphery) can find a niche and reposition itself as a cultural mediator in the midst of global cultural transformation.”

Examples of trending Korean streetwear - vastly different to Americanized concepts of fashion.

Examples of trending Korean streetwear – vastly different to Americanized concepts of fashion.

A strong example of an element of Korean culture which has become extremely popular in Western cultures is the song and music video of Gangnam Style, shown below. The video is currently sitting at just over 2.4 billion views – among the most viewed videos of all time on YouTube. It spurred a wave of covers, remixes and remakes from countries all around the world, and has so far been the most “viral” element of Korean entertainment on global media to date.

So what effect did this have on the ‘Korean Wave’? According to Google Trends, there was a huge spike in searches for “K-Pop” shortly after the release of Gangnam Style. Even though the success of Gangnam Style benefitted those involved with the record, it also greatly benefitted the rest of Korea’s music industry as a result of the widespread attention it was receiving. This peak has since plateaued but the global interest in K-Pop has remained higher than it was before.

Another element of Korean culture which has been appreciated in Western cultures is their film industry. Many Korean films are regularly screened at cultural film festivals around the world; Australian examples of this include KOFFIA and BAPFF. In addition to being appreciated in their original foreign formats, many successful Korean films have been remade and adapted by Hollywood in order to appeal to a Western audience. For example, the film Mirrors (2008) is a Hollywood remake of the Korean film Into The Mirror (2003). Similarly, The Uninvited (2009) is a remake of the Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters (2003). Comparisons of the release covers for these films can be seen below. All films draw from the same horror film tropes, however they differ slightly in filmography and storyline to cater for differences in their target audience.


Direct cover comparisons between original Korean films and their Hollywood remakes.

In summary, Korea’s effects on Western culture are noticeable in a number of different industries and if recent trends are anything to go by, the rate at which this is growing will continue to increase in future.


Woongjae Ryoo (2009) Globalization, or the logic of cultural hybridization: the case of the Korean wave, Asian Journal of Communication, 19:2, 137-151

Google Trends


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