K-Pop fever, which met with great success in Paris, the cultural capital of the world, is now spreading to Latin America and Africa, across the Atlantic.
Noting that the importance of soft power such as science technology, cultural exchange and international cooperation is becoming greater in the 21st century, Seo Kang-soo , director of the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS), said, "Culture stands in the center of soft power."
In an interview with the Korea IT Times, Seo said, "In keeping with the effectuation of the Korea-Europe FTA on July 1, the Hallyu [Korean wave] phenomenon will become clearer than ever before in Europe, and more Korean culture will advance into the European market in the immediate future."
Plan to spread Hallyu
Commenting that K-Pop fever will spread from Argentina this year, the center of Latin culture in Latin America, Seo said, "A total of 407 persons of 171 teams from 14 countries have already applied for the second Latin America K-Pop competition this year."
In 2010, 281 persons in 92 teams from 10 countries, including Mexico, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Colombia attended the first Latin America K-Pop competition.
"In 2011, Panama, Brazil, Uruguay, and Bolivia will join in the K-Pop performance. It reflects a growing synergy effect of Hallyu in Latin America," said the KOCIS director.
"Meanwhile, we invited 12 journalists from eight Latin American countries, including Brazil and Argentina, to a program to make a direct visit to Korea's cultural spots including Gyeongbok Palace, Insa-dong, the National Museum of Korea, and the M.Net broadcasting station in May this year. They also visited Pyeongchang, which was selected as the city to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, and Jeju Island, which is one of the powerful candidates to be selected as one of the world's new seven wonders," he said.
Saying that KOCIS recently published a book titled "Carrying Korea on the Wings of Culture," which introduces various activities of KOCIS officials in some 30 countries, Seo mentioned, "Although the Korean drama was not aired once through a local broadcasting company, a growing number of Argentinians are knowing such Hallyu stars as Super Junior, the Wonder Girls, and Girls' Generation through such social networks as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook."
Major business projects of KOCIS for 2011
KOCIS has been exerting all-out efforts to expand or diversify Korean cultural centers in foreign countries this year.
"For instance, we opened Korean cultural centers in Australia, Spain, Indonesia, and the Philippines in April and June this year and plan to establish such a center in India, Turkey, and Hungary in the latter half, bringing the total number of Korean cultural centers to 24," said the director.
"At present, KOCIS has been operating such cultural programs as Korean language lectures, Korean culture lectures, drama and movie showing. However, we will develop new programs to satisfy local resident demands. For an example, we plan to establish a service system where foreigners can enjoy Korean movies, food and fashion," said Seo.
Asked about KOCIS' other PR program for sustainable Hallyu fever, he said, "We are now operating a global press corps, titled the Worldwide Korea Bloggers (WKB), to herald Korean culture to the world through social media, including blogs and Twitter. To activate operation of The Korea Blog, which introduces Korean culture in English, we already selected 42 bloggers across the world. In addition, we will select 50 journalists of the global press corps every year to expand and develop various events and programs to herald Korean culture to the world," he said.
Besides, KOCIS is operating the Overseas KOCIS cultural mission consisting of 230 university students of 68 teams going abroad for volunteer service to herald Korean culture overseas.
"In particular, we will place focus on specializing and localizing KOCIS' 24 overseas programs this year to spread the Hallyu fever to the whole world," he said.
Marketing strategy for sustainable Hallyu spread
"For sustainable Hallyu spread, we will strengthen supports and investment for development of excellent cultural content this year. Along with this, we will establish a system that systematically supports activities of allyu fan clubs and K-Pop cafés in the world.
"In line with this, KOCIS will carry out a survey on status of Hallyu fan clubs by country and hold a final Hallyu fan contest in Seoul after organizing regional contests. At the same time, we are pushing ahead with the 'Hallyu concert world tour' by Korean Hallyu stars," said Seo.
KOCIS is now preparing a variety of strategies to expand and re-produce Hallyu centering on such public culture as K-Pop and movie to the overall Korean culture.
Stressing the importance of investment and support system for Korean cultural centers in foreign countries, he said, "We will push for establishing the 'Paris Korea Center' building in Paris, the core stronghold of European Hallyu, and move the cultural center to the building. Aside from this, we will prepare a step to systematically support young Korean artists who won a prize in various international competitions."
At present, 41 senior KOCIS officials are serving in 35 cultural centers in 30 countries to implant a positive Korean image in the hearts of foreigners. A national image is working as a key factor in creating global consensus in deciding the image of Korean products and attracting global events, including the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.