Korean Wave fans surpass 100 million: report


Even as borders closed around the world last year due to the pandemic, that didn’t stop the spread of the Korean Wave, or “hallyu,” from reaching new heights.

There were a total of 100 million members in 1,835 Korean Wave-related clubs across the world as of September 2020, marking a 5.45 million increase from the year before, according to the latest report from the Korea Foundation, a public diplomacy arm of Seoul’s Foreign Ministry.

The annual report, an account on the global status of hallyu, analyzes trends related to the global ascent of Korean cultural content across 109 countries and their cultural characteristics, along with related clubs and their members in 98 countries.

“The report proves that the Korean Wave, expanded widely across the world despite all the hardships,” KF President Lee Geun said. “I hope this data can allow people to understand the current state of hallyu and help the related authorities set up projects.”

The KF attributed the upsurge to several factors: the rising global interest in Korean content thanks to the Oscar-winning Korean film “Parasite,” and songs by K-pop boy band BTS; online paid K-pop concerts; new Korean webtoons; and an increase in various activities on a diverse range of platforms such as language translation lessons, reaction to K-pop performances and cover dance videos.

However, the report pointed out that the number of related clubs in Asia has decreased. THE KF said the drop was likely a result of the trade war between Japan, the Chinese ban on Korean content online and controversies related to some Korean celebrities.

Club numbers in America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East regions on the other hand increased.

In North and South America, the number of hallyu club members reached 15.8 million, a 30 percent increase compared to 12.2 million from the year before.

In the US, clubs have an average of 1 million members each, heavily influenced by the film “Parasite,” the Netflix series “Kingdom,” South Korean children’s educational brand Pinkfong, along with the popularity of Korean webtoons, computer games and food.

In Europe, the numbers increased from 15 million to 18.8 million, marking a 25 percent increase.

The expansion of hallyu, from K-drama and K-pop to films, classical music, foods, Korean language and traditional culture, attributed to the rise, the KF said.

In Africa and the Middle East regions, hallyu club members were estimated to be at around 1.19 million. Membership numbers increased almost fourfold compared to the 320,000 from the year before.

The report is available online at http://ebook.kf.or.kr.