South Korea’s entertainment industry is not all about beautiful and talented people. There are also beautiful things about the Korean culture that we can learn through their celebrities. Here are ten of them:
1. Display of Affection
- A number of Western psychologists have done studies on the importance of being able to show love and affection openly. However, many of us hold back when it comes to openly showing love. This is especially true for males who feel the need to display machismo and bravado. Korean pop stars are prime exceptions to the rule. You can see kpop artists openly hugging or kissing each other in the cheek even if they are male. Some westerners even see them as “gay” because of this trait.
- The rapper Jay Park, who once called Korea-based male pop singers “gay” because they’re touchy with each other in public, grew up in Seattle and is more exposed to Western culture. The artists he mentions were unfazed, though. You can still see the likes of matinee idol Lee Minho openly showing his camaraderie by hugs and taps on the back even when the cameras are on him. Showing affection is simply natural and not a big deal among artists who grew up in South Korea.
2. Strong Affinity towards Tradition and Culture
- When it comes to Korean drama, tradition is actually a plus point. Directors and writers are not afraid to showcase things that are innately and uniquely Korean, and it’s a good thing. The very same shows which highlight Korean culture succeed even when shown overseas. “Pretty Boy” which aired pretty recently in 2014 showcased not only Korean fashion but also succinctly mannerisms. Korea’s societal structure is also very clearly displayed with the way super rich families expect a lot from their children, and how they try, as much as possible, to move and mix only within their circles.
- In “The Heirs” starring Lee Min ho, the protagonists try to break free from this tradition, but the difficulty in doing so is the main conflict of the story. All of the character’s movements, especially the way they relate to their elders is also innately Korean. The director didn’t try to create characters which seem westernized. Instead, there is a strong sense of respect and love for the family, which made the protagonists’ love story deeper, because they were fighting against the norm.
- Period pieces are also still being created. The Legend and Jumong are only some of the most successful Korean period dramas which made waves not only in Korea but in neighboring Asian countries as well.
4. Respect and Politeness among people of the same age
- In Korean dramas, as well as shows and even concerts, Korean artists are always polite with each other. They’re not just polite among elders. They also have “honorifics” for artists the same age as they are. You can see Korean hosts bowing to performers, and vice versa. They bow as a greeting and as a sign of respect.
- Even when they crack jokes, they’re polite about it. You won’t see pop stars insulting each other on- or off-camera. While western artists are all too comfortable lambasting each other, Korean artists respect each other’s craft.
3. Respect for Elders
- As mentioned above, if one is to examine the most successful and realistic Korean dramas, most of them would display how the protagonists show respect to their elders. Most of them feel trapped by the stringent traditions of inheriting family businesses and other responsibilities, but they are never quite outright enough as they try to break free. This is because they still respect their elders, and rebelling is actually painful for them.
- Perhaps, the way the entertainment industry has reflected the society’s strong respect for elders also did the culture good. Even in this day and age, Korea has a very low teenage pregnancy rate. While the rest of the world deals with this problem, Korea’s teenage pregnancy rate remains at 2.8%. Some countries are experiencing a skyrocketing number of teenage moms. By embedding traditions and respect for their elders in the general audience who watch their shows, they’ve managed to pass down important virtues effectively.
- What makes Korean actors and singers so endearing is probably their humility. While most Western artists let fame get into their heads, Korean stars are very down-to-earth. Instead of crediting their own talents for their success, the most popular Korean stars never forget their fans and the producers who gave them the opportunity to be successful.
- This humility can be seen in press releases. While Western stars cringe away from fans who want to have photos taken with them, Korean stars seem to be in awe when fans, especially from those abroad, show admiration. When they talk to their fans, they also bow as a sign of respect. It’s not usual for one to see a successful Korean star with a bloated ego. They also don’t look down on people. They consider themselves lucky to be earning money by doing what they love to do.
6. Decent Comedy
- Koreans usually resort to slapstick simply because they don’t want to make fun of others or to insult other people just to be funny. You can see near-self-deprecating comedy antics in their sitcoms because this, for them, is decent comedy. It’s decent because it doesn’t harm other people.
- You can see this in the 2005 hit My Girl. When you watch variety pop shows, the host would rather make fun of him or herself than insult a guest just to get the audiences to laugh. It’s considered simply rude for Koreans to insult their fellowman, and if other pop stars were just this polite, the world would be a much better place to live in.
7. Respect towards Privacy
- You will probably see actors and actresses elsewhere dropping a hint or two about their colleagues’ personal problems. Not in South Korea. Here, even though fans are fans and they’re only too excited to invade their idol’s privacy, it’s indecent for the media, and also for other actors, to invade their colleagues’ personal lives.
- A primary example is Kim Hyun Joong who, very recently, suffered from rumors that he was beating his ex-girlfriend up. Usually, this sort of news would make the media’s job easy. Instead, he was pretty much left alone to deal with the conflict in private. IU and Eunhyuk were also rumored to be dating, but they were never interviewed about it until one of them opened up.
- Jay Park, although he was based in the US, also enjoyed this from the South Korean entertainment industry. When he released a controversial statement regarding Korea in his Myspace account, no one in the Korean media bothered to confront him about it.
8. Importance of Education
- In some cultures, once you’re an actor or a well-known singer, finishing college is no longer important. This is not true in South Korea. Most of their stars make it a point to finish their education. Some even pursue learning beyond their college degree.
- Lee Minho, for example, is a Major of Film and Art in Konkuk University, and Lovers in Paris star Kim Jung Eun studies Industrial Arts in Gungook University. While some singers like Sandara Park are not enrolled in the University as of the moment, she, in an interview, said that at the right time, she would like to experience the University life too, and would even enroll in a business course.
- Chivalry is not dead. It is very much alive in the Korean culture and this is portrayed in nearly all of their dramas, sitcoms, and even in the way music performers are with each other. South Koreans might be more reserved and formal when they’re together, but the men certainly know how to treat their ladies well.
- A favorite among K-drama fans is the Lee Minho’s portrayals. His character in The Heirs and Boys Over Flowers would certainly have your heart melting. While the characters might not be that of a perfect knight in shining armor, the drive to protect whoever the girl of his dreams are in both dramas are so real and so apparent. It’s not hard to imagine real-life South Korean men doing anything to please their ladies.
10. Family beyond blood
- Friendships in South Korean culture run deep. Some friends can be your closest allies, and this relationship can even surpass family ties at times.
- This can also be seen in the way boybands bond in South Korea. Most of them end up as really close friends. Instead of competing with each other and trying to break each other down, they are brothers. Super Junior, for example, were friends on- and off-cam. So are most of their predecessors. Even if they didn’t start out as friends from the very beginning, they eventually develop very tight friendships with each other.