Hanliu / Hallyu (한류)


Hanliu (한류), also known as hallyu or the “Korean Wave,” refers to the Korean cultural phenomenon now sweeping across East and Southeast Asia.  Korean culture is hot right now, especially in Japan and China.  Asians are discovering the uniqueness and intrigue of a place once known as the Hermit Kingdom.  The phenomenon started with the spread of a 20-parent Korean drama series produced a few years ago called “Winter Sonata.”  You might have even heard of this series in the news.  Right now it’s the hottest thing in Japan and very popular throughout Asia.  Other Korean drama series that are popular right now include “Summer Scent”, “Fall Fairy Tale”, and “Stairway to Heaven” (yes, the Led Zepplin classic is one of the featured songs).  I enjoy watching these dramas to improve my Korean, but they are not my kind of movie.  They can be slow, and the plotlines are too simple and have too many coincidences for my taste.  Rather than using violence to create suspense, these dramas tend to inflict characters with illnesses–blindness, amnesia, and heart failure.  Nothing like a good heart transplant to bring people together.

My wife, who grew up in Asia, is crazy about these movies.  Her favorite actor is a hunk who makes every woman in Asia weak in the knees, Bae Yong Jun (배용준).  Very few actors have made the same kind of splash in the U.S. as BYJ has in Asia.  The rapid rise of Leo DiCaprio after the release of the movie “Titanic” is probably the best comparison to Bae hysteria in Japan and Asia.  Interestingly, the popularity of “Winter Sonata” has cooled in Korea because it’s already a few years old.  I imagine that when the new “Spring” series comes out–the last of the four “seasons” dramas, it will be immensely popular in Korea and Japan.

Korean movies have heightened interest throughout Asia in other aspects of Korean culture, including music, technology, martial arts (tae kwondo), and language.  In Japan the wave of Hanliu is still on the rise.  It’s rare that the Japanese embrace another culture so quickly and feverishly.  Korean dramas are especially popular with Asians because many closely identify with the dramas’ main themes–love, love triangles, family duty, personality conflicts and manipulation, innocence, intimacy, and tragedy.  Korean culture itself is intriguing because it still embodies many Confucian principles, and Asians are revisiting these principles, perhaps for the first time.  This is especially true in China, which lost some of its Confucist character following World War II and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

For Christmas I bought my wife the “Winter Sonata” soundtrack and a Bae Yong Jun T-shirt.  After an exhaustive search I found just one to buy on the Web.  (I found it at Kpopmusic).  I told my mother, and she exclaimed, “You bought her a T-shirt?!”  An American, she doesn’t understand.  At this moment that’s the best gift I could give her.  She plans to wear it proudly and show it off to all the Koreans she knows.

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Understanding children


Try as I might, sometimes I don’t understand children.  Tonight our toddler really acted up.  He had his mother at wit’s end trying to figure out what he wanted.  He took a late nap and was a bundle of energy the entire evening.  We couldn’t get him to sleep because he was so wound up.  He looked like he wanted mommy to come out and play at 11 o’clock at night.  Daddy just wouldn’t do.  He was really upset, and because he doesn’t say much yet he couldn’t tell us what he wanted.  Mommy was very tired, so she asked daddy to take him out to the living room to play and exhaust the last of his energy.  Our toddler cried and cried and just wanted to go back to mommy.  I thought he was hungry and tried to feed him some food.  He didn’t want it.  I thought he might need some milk but he didn’t want that either.  Finally, I noticed he was looking at his sippy cup.  I finally figured out that he wanted some apple juice mixed with water.  I finally understood what he had been trying to tell us all along.  We just didn’t have a clue.  We were frustrated with him, and he with us.  Once he got his juice he was fine.  He was thirsty after playing so hard and crying all evening.  Juice is what he needed.

You try to be a good parent and listen to your children.  Sometimes you just can’t understand them.  But instead of losing your temper, you just have to try harder to communicate and figure out what they’re trying to tell you.  In a year or so our son will be old enough to put short sentences together and will be able to better tell us what he wants.  He already can convey simple ideas like “car”, “bird,” and “diaper”.  However, he can’t tell us he’s thirsty.  We have to be magicians by figuring it out from his signs and trying to read his mind.  It’s frustrating for us sometimes, but no more so than it is for him.

I never understood why children go through the so-called “Terrible Two’s” (which really start around 1 1/2 years of age).  I now know that it’s because sometimes children at that age have to resort to extreme forms of communication to get their point across–blood-curdling, mind-numbing temper tantrums.  Our son is now in that phase, and I hope for his sake and ours it will pass soon.  In the meantime, I’ll keep working on my listening skills.