‘Hallyu’ wave on Egyptian shores

Poster of 'Experiencing Korean Culture' in Egypt

Guys singing Korean songs in the street, girls tuning in to Korean dramas on TV every day, and people just making plans to go work in Korea, and maybe even live there, all of these aspects affecting the world, including Egypt, is what’s called the Hallyu or Korean wave.

Korean wave started years ago, affecting the whole world most especially Asia, Europe, the United States, and the Middle East. Egypt is of course one of these countries affected by this cultural wave. Whether was it dramas and movies’ stars, singers and Kpop, or the Korean language and life style in general, people became mesmerized by the Korean culture.

The internet played a big role in the spread of the Korean culture all the way to Egypt. Through the internet Egyptian formed their own fan clubs, no different than the original official fan clubs back in Korea. Korea’s fans in Egypt are even more passionate about it than fans or lovers of any other culture outlet being shown there. The reason might be, as said by many Egyptian fans, “Korean dramas and songs touch our hearts, we feel their honesty and what’s more special about them is that they don’t focus on love stories solely. There is passion in their work and we can relate to them more than we can relate to Egyptians works”

This sums the main reason why the Korean wave has such firm fanbase in Egypt. Besides the Internet, the Korean wave started in the Arab world through a channel called “Korea TV” which was an Arabic channel, showing most popular Korean dramas, music videos, reality and variety shows, and even some “how to speak Korean” shows. This channel was such a hit, that the Korean fanbase in Egypt grew bigger, even after the channel was shut down.

People now can tune in to many channels that started to realize how much people love Korean dramas, or even watch them after being available online, some might go to the extent of ordering all the DVDs online to watch them, seeing as they’re rarely sold in Egypt. Of course, all the Korean merchandise are rarely sold in Egypt, such as Kpop merchandise, albums, dramas DVDs, but Internet made it easier for people to get what they want and have a taste of Korean waves.

Korean wave include, songs, dramas and films, food, outfits, literature and even language, all of these aspects are now being focused on in Egypt.

Korean songs made an entrance to Egypt early, but its breakthrough was when Psy’s “Gangnam Style” was released. All those who weren’t even fans of Korean culture became ones and started digging deep into it, thanks to Psy’s phenomenal song. People now can walk in the street humming a song they haven’t even memorized or understood completely, but the beat is there, that’s the charm of Korean music.

The same applies to Korean dramas, People used to either watch it online or buy drama DVDs because of the rarity of Korean channels on Arabic satellites. But channels started showing more and more dubbed Korean series’ that widened the Korean fanbase, with dramas like “Boys Over Flowers”, “Big” , “Chuno”, “Winter Sonata”, and many others.

This of course paved the road for more to learn the Korean language, not just those who chose to study it at college. Many now are taking lessons, learning online or having a tutor, or even watching Korean dramas to learn and speak the language of “Hangul”. It became a style of life more than just a wave; many people are so immersed in the Korean wave that sometimes they keep forgetting about the actual world around them.

One of the People interested in the Korean culture is the graphic artist Basma Ibrahim, who has her own portfolio of drawing many Korean stars such as No Min Woo, Moon Geun Young, Bae Yong Joon and many other Hallyu stars. She drew them in a style very similar to Korean Manhua, but with an Egyptian taste. Basma is only one example of people using their creativity and art to convey their love for Korea.

One of the most noticeable Korean-related events are those done by the Korean Culture Center in Egypt, as it has hosted so many occasions and special Korean days, such as special Kpop day, Kpop contests, Korean food making, Korean Hanbok day, teaching Korean language, and even having a lot of events and discussion boards all over Egypt.

The audience for such events is getting bigger and bigger, a couple of years ago you wouldn’t see this much people interested in a culture so different in language and ethnicity, but people are starting to throw away all their stereotypes and embracing this culture more and more.

In the field of literature, people are starting to pay more attention to Korean writers and novelists and having major seminars discussing works such as “Please Look After My Mom” by the Korean novelist Kyung Sook Shin, The famous series of Korean folk stories, and many other literate works that have captured the hearts of Egyptian readers.

Many would notice the similarities in the Korean and Egyptian cultures, the way they both respect the elders, the same problems that youth face, but in Korea it’s apparent that these troubles can be dealt with more openly, which isn’t the same in Egypt.

Many now of fields, such as medicine, journalism or engineering or many other different fields are aspiring to live and prove themselves in Korea, as it has proven to be a dreamland for many of the youth in Egypt, and wish to live what they call the “Korean Dream”. We can frankly say that this Korean wave or Hallyu, even though it wasn’t intended to have this great impact, but now it has turned Korea into a world of dreams for a large group of people, mainly youth.

Even though the Korean wave only spreads the pop culture, not all the aspects of the Korean culture but people are getting more motivated to travel to Korea and discover it themselves. Hallyu wave has become a way that Korea can use positively to deepen and strengthen the bonds with countries like the Middle East and Egypt, which I think is slowly happening. It’s a good way to exchange culture, language, and deepen our understating of each other, and start thinking as one, with all the stereotypes out of the way.

As what’s great about the effects of Korean wave, people aren’t neglecting their own tradition and culture, they’re learning to accept and love others of different cultures. The Hallyu or Korean is a fine model of what globalization should do or be.

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