Saturday, September 28, 2013

DMZ Documentary Festival to Be Held in Mid-October


The 5th DMZ International Documentary Film Festival will take place for a week from Oct. 17 in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, marking the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

The festival, largely non-competitive, will feature 119 documentaries from 38 countries.

The opening ceremony will be held in Camp Greaves, a former U.S. military base near the demilitarized zone on Oct. 17, with a screening of "Ten Thousand Spirits" by director Park Chan-kyong. The fantasy documentary looks back on the stormy life of a female shaman.

Tickets will be available online from Oct. 1. For more information, visit the festival's website at

More Koreans Spurn Rice But Embrace Coffee


Rice consumption is on the decline while coffee is getting more popular, statistics show. According to the Nonghyup Economic Research Institute on Monday, the coffee market in Korea more than doubled over the past four years, while annual per capita rice consumption declined by about six kg over the same period.

Coffee imports rose from 107,000 tons in 2008 to 115,000 tons last year, which translates into 293 cups of coffee per adult a year. The coffee market more than doubled from W1.91 trillion in 2008 to W4.13 trillion in 2012 (US$1=W1,082). By contrast, annual rice consumption per person fell around 6 kg to 69.8 kg.

A bowl of rice fetches only 20.6-45.7 percent of the price of a cup of coffee. According to the report, as of 2012, a 100g bowl of rice was sold for W1,000-W1,500 in restaurants, while a cup of "Americano" or ordinary drip coffee cost W3,500-4,000.

But coffee consumption continues to increase. Koreans over 12 ate rice 19.2 times per week in 2008, but that fell to 17.2 times in 2011. By contrast, the weekly frequency of coffee consumption rose from 7.9 times to 8.6 times over the same period.

Actress Park Si-yeon Happy to Focus on Being a Mom


Park Si-yeon Park Si-yeon

Actress Park Si-yeon became a mother on Tuesday, her management agency said. She gave a birth to a healthy baby girl weighing 3 kg at a clinic in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, it added.

Park, who married in late 2011, said she will devote herself to raising her child for now.

As she is being charged with abusing the anesthetic Propofol, the same drug that helped claim the life of Michael Jackson, she has put her career on the backburner for the time being.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Foreign brands lead fast-fashion boom at Korean Arena

Some consumers raise questions about product quality, cheap prices

By Park Ji-won, Nam Hyun-woo, Baek Byung-yeul

After fast-fashion brands made a successful soft landing in Korea’s fashion market years ago, the wardrobes of young or even middle-aged Koreans have been filled with low-cost garments from such brands.

For years, big name fast-fashion chains, such as Uniqlo, Zara, H&M, 8 seconds and SPAO have beaten other brands including Levi’s or Calvin Klein Jeans, the so-called must-have items that Korean youngsters had to have in the early 2000s.

With the loyalty of fans, the top three SPAs in the Korean market ― Uniqlo, Zara and H&M ― are enjoying huge success with their sales growing sharply. SPA stands for specialty store retailer of private label apparel.

According to the Financial Supervisory Service’s Data Analysis, Retrieval and Transfer System, the size of the country’s SPA market remained at some 1 trillion won ($915.3 million) in 2008, but it will likely surpass the 3 trillion won threshold next year.

Sales for the top three stood at some 800 billion won in 2012, growing more than 40 percent from a year earlier.

As those figures show, fast-fashion has marked a huge presence in Korea’s fashion market. Experts say their rise was backed by offering greater variety quickly to customers at a reasonable cost in the fast-spinning wheel of fashion.

Stores of such fast-fashion brands, or SPAS have packed Seoul’s shopping districts such as Myeong-dong or Hongdae.

When asked “Where do you buy your jeans?” eight out of 10 college students interviewed said they usually visit fast-fashion retailers for shopping.

Reasonable prices

“I’m a big fan of fast-fashion brands because they offer various products at reasonable prices. The jeans that I’m wearing now are from Uniqlo and the shirt is from Zara,” said Yoo In-seok.

Park Hyun-min echoed Yoo’s view.

He said, “The biggest strength that such SPAs have is the price of their products. There is nowhere you can buy this number of garments on a limited budget,” showing two T-shirts, two pairs of pants and some underwear he bought from SPAO, a domestic SPA brand here.

Park Soo-jin picked more fashion-related reasons for her preference in fast-fashion brands.

“Getting away from logo-centric clothes is one of the reasons I choose fast-fashion brands. Just a few years ago, wearing clothes with a big logo on them was considered to be fashionable, but now that is out-dated,” said Park.

“Young people these days are looking for basic items or seeking unique designs. Fast-fashion brands are popular because they succeed in meeting such customer expectations,” said Park.

Functional and trendy clothes

Uniqlo, a Japanese SPA brand leading Korea’s fast-fashion market, focuses on offering various basic items in different materials. Its trademark technologies ― “Heattech” for winter and “AIRism” for summer ― enjoy huge popularity for their function in keeping wearers warm or cool.

Zara is usually described as the brand most definitive of fast-fashion. The Spanish fast-fashion giant distributes an average of two new designs a week to some 1,700 branches around the world.

According to a manager at the company, around 80 designers release new clothing constantly and the company restocks branch shelves with new clothes every week. Customers may not be able to buy shirts they eyed a week ago.

As its product cycle spins more quickly than other brands, its products are said to be the most “trendy” and “fancy,” reflecting young people’s fashion choices.

H&M, the global fast-fashion “king” from Sweden, falls in between the two rivals. It sells basic goods and offers trendy items at the same time. It also releases many collaboration pieces from renowned luxury brand designers, offering a glimpse of pricy designer goods to budget-strapped customers. The company entered the Korean market later than its rivals, but said it has 16 stores in the country and is expanding its business operations.

Park said, “Young shoppers like me want to be fashionable, but they don’t want to spend a lot of money. Fast-fashion brands work well for that.”

Amid the sluggish economy, SPA fashion retailers have been showing a strong performance in Korea, as well as in other countries.

The fashion retail conglomerates say they sell cheap and trendy fashion clothes for customers.

There has been a dispute over quality and price as SPA firms insist that while products may be cheap, all products maintain the same standard of quality.

There may be benefits for customers in buying clothes priced so reasonably. However, whether the quality of the product matches the price is another issue.

The real costs to cheaper products

“Considering the quality of the clothes, I think the price is not reasonable at all. I bought a pair of jeans in one SPA store in Korea that stretched out after wearing them few times,” an office employee working near Seoul Station said.

“The products look fine at first glance, but when you take a closer look, you can see the sewing is incomplete or not carefully done,” a university student surnamed Koo said.

Uniqlo recently released its fall-winter product lines in cashmere and silk, which sell from 50,000 won. Zara sells products at relatively expensive prices, especially in men’s clothes, according to a fashion blogger in Naver, who has been comparing the prices of Zara products over the years. “Clothes are overpriced compared to those in other countries. I bought a set of six socks for 990 yen (10,900 won) in Uniqlo in Beppu in Japan. But I bought four socks in Uniqlo for 15,900 won in Korea. SPA firms likely think of Korean customers as easy-money,” an office worker surnamed Park said.

In terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR), Uniqlo has been active in such activities since 2011, but Zara, which posted some 200 billion won in sales in 2012 in Korea, has never engaged in such activities during the four years the firm has been in Korea.

“I barely see SPA companies performing CSR activities in Korea, even though they make a lot of money here. Looking at that, I just assume that they only just want to earn money,” a consumer said.

Structural problems over clothing manufacturing

A garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed on April 24, killing more than 1,000 local people who worked inside the building. The rise in the demand for cheap clothing overseas has led to cuts in production costs. The factory where the workers worked was shabbily built, leading to the accident, and the wages they received were deemed to be the cheapest among Asian countries. This naturally came at the expense of the workers’ health and safety, all in order to win a bid from overseas SPAs amid fiercer competition.

The disaster in Bangladesh is a prominent case highlighted in the media. However, the sufferers remain victims of the SPA manufacturing system.

“Most of our clothes are made in China, India and Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The factory which provides the cheapest labor wins our bid. Most SPA firms outsource production, not directly manufacturing,” said a manager at one of the Korean SPA firms by telephone.

“With globalization has come consumer apathy. Who cares about people who make clothing? As long as it is cheap we will buy it,” Anna McMullen, a reporter at CNN, said in a recent article.

“Customers would think that the cheap cost would inevitably come at a sacrifice,” a fashion-related office worker said.

Source : The Korea Times

Sugar Pop group crawling back to fame

The five members of Crayon Pop hope the new release of their music video “Bar Bar Bar,” Monday, will restore the group's popularity.
/ Courtesy of Chrome Entertainment

Crayon Pop jumping, stomping again after scandal

By Park Jin-hai

They seemingly had every reason to fail.

Gum-mi, ChoA, Way, Ellin and So-yul, the five members of Crayon Pop were “different.” Unlike other sexy or cute female K-pop groups, they were dorky.

Dressed in tracksuits and bicycle helmets as colorful as crayons, the five girls in the music video bounce up and down to the repetitive and catchy tune of “Bar Bar Bar” on the tilt-a-whirl and merry-go-round at an amusement park. To the retro sound of fast electronic beats, its lyrics urge people to leave their worries behind and jump along.

“We have always tried to challenge the mainstream in some way,” said ChoA, 23, in an interview with The Korea Times. “As a girl group, we needed to gather up what courage we had simply to be different.”

The quintet recalls the moment they heard that their music would be wacky and funny. “Up to the moment we were called on stage, we were not sure how people would react to our quirkiness,” said Way, ChoA’s twin sister. “So our success was unexpected and sudden.”

Their momentary fall was just as sudden. The previous comments the members left on Twitter, using words from rightist-online media, got them in trouble where angry netizens harshly criticized them. An ad was pulled, an event was cancelled and the public response was negative.

But on Aug. 30, the rookie girl group beat the 12-member boy band EXO on the music program “Music Bank” to top the chart. It also earned them a fandom that is comparable to Psy’s “Gangnam Style.”

On Monday, Sony Korea released the revised version of their “Bar Bar Bar” music video, aimed at the global music industry. The new music video was filmed at locations like a subway station, Han river, and children’s park in Seoul. Their core fan base “pop jeossi” made a surprise appearance in the video.

“All of the difficult moments flashed through in my head,” said Gum-mi, recalling when their name was called out on “Music Bank” in a separate e-interview. She, caught in a torrent of emotion, burst into tears, referring to the recent public backlash against the group.

The other members also spoke cautiously about the incident, even though they were a tough independent group that rose out of obscurity and against all odds. The girls all debuted late. Plus, they all had other careers: Gum-mi worked as a skin therapist; Ellin, a shopping mall fitting model; Way, an indie band singer; and So-yul, a member of another girl band. They spent only a year as group members before they debuted as “Crayon Pop.”

Their entertainment company was small in size, premature in experience, and was lacking finance to promote the girl group. But the rest of the story would have it that the band had a sudden miraculous rise, a series of managerial mishaps, and then fall from fame.

But their viral hit song “Bar Bar Bar” is making the rounds all over the nation, with fans and celebrities parodying their signature quirky dance moves – dubbed the “Straight-Five Engine Dance” for its resemblance to an engine’s cylinders - on YouTube.

Since its release on June 23, their video has received about 5 million views. In just six weeks, it sits at the top of the Billboard’s K-Pop Hot 100 and it also succeeded in making a license deal with Sony Music Entertainment, which is home to Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Avril Lavigne.

“It was right after our album was released,” said Way, when asked about when the most trying moment of their year-long career was. “We initially thought that once our album was out, all doors would open for us,” she added. The group’s album was released in June, when the K-pop stage was already crowded with existing and new groups.

“The chance to stand on stage was few and far between for us. We found ourselves spending more and more time stuck in the studio,” ChoA added. “It was suffocating.”

These girls, however, didn’t back off. They chose to go forward. With the sole purpose of showing who they were and what they had, they took to the streets, giving “street guerilla concerts,” something unprecedented by an idol group.

They performed wherever they could find space. They even performed in subway stations. Members said that sometimes all the girls huddled together and shed tears at the end of the day. But, because of those days, they secured their core fan base called “pop jeossi” or middle-aged male fans who virtually triggered the nation-wide craze for the group.

“In hindsight, although it was tough, we tried to find a silver lining,” said Gum-mi. “Anyhow, it was way better to be outside performing than staying in the studio,” added Way.

In the freezing winter wind, they performed only in their tracksuits, because with their signature outfit on people would recognize them. “When it was really cold, we used to move to a nearby location and perform more, just to warm up our bodies,” said Way.

Asked about their role models, they name singers such as Lee Hyo-ri and Lee Jung-hyun, who debuted in their teens but hold iconic status and perform even now in their mid 30s.

“But, we would like to be the ‘girl-next-door’ kind of group. A group that can recharge people’s energy levels to the fullest with cheery and light music,” said ChoA.
Source: The Korea Times

When you are at Korea : Asking someone's age

Old Chinese Maps Show Dokdo Belonged to Korea


Two old Chinese maps have been discovered showing that the Dokdo islets belonged to Korea, further undermining Japan's flimsy colonial claim to the rocks.

The two maps were made in the 19th century during the Qing Dynasty and were unveiled by Lee Myeong-hee of Kyunghee University's Humanitas College at a seminar on Sept. 6.

One is an eight-piece folding-screen map of the world from 1845 and depicts Ulleung Island and Dokdo in close proximity to the Korean Peninsula, clearly showing that they belonged to the Chosun Kingdom.

The other map, created in 1851, depicts Ulleung Island and Dokdo in the same way.

A Chinese map made in 1845 depicts Ulleung Island and Dokdo (in red circle) as belonging to the Chosun Kingdom. /Courtesy of Lee Myeong-hee A Chinese map made in 1845 depicts Ulleung Island and Dokdo (in red circle) as belonging to the Chosun Kingdom. /Courtesy of Lee Myeong-hee

Lee Sang-tae, another researcher who also presented his findings at the seminar, said, "Study of maps produced by Japan's Shimane Prefecture," which claims ownership of Dokdo, "shows that Dokdo was not identified as part of the prefecture for around a dozen years just before and after it illegally laid claim to Dokdo in 1905."

Japanese maps dating back to 1895 and 1899 and even those from 1908 and 1912 show Dokdo excluded from Japanese territory.

Maps from 1948 following Japan's surrender in World War II and from 1963 also do not include Dokdo in Japanese territory, according to Lee. The expert said this was because Japan "lacked any confidence" in claiming the islets.
Source: The Chosun Ilbo


Friday, September 6, 2013

Miss President Park meets role model Merkel

President Park Geun-hye, left, meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. The two leaders are the first woman leaders of their respective countries with great influence. / Yonhap

By Kim Tae-gyu

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia ― Two of the world’s most influential women met Friday on the sidelines of the G20 Summit as President Park Geun-hye had a one-on-one meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Park, Korea’s first woman head of state, has cited Merkel, who is also the first woman chancellor of Germany, as a role model.

“In time with the 130th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relationships between the two nations, Park met with Merkel,” said Ju Chul-ki, Park’s senior secretary for foreign affairs and security.

“Germany has strong small- and medium-sized enterprises and renewable energy. Accordingly, it can be our benchmark in achieving a creative economy.”

Park has attempted to realize a creative economy by boosting venture start-ups and stimulating the convergence between IT and other business areas so that Asia’s No. 4 economy will be able to find new growth engines.

Germany has been touted as a country bracing for the concept of a creative economy as its economy is underpinned by small exporters, which boast of unrivaled technological competitiveness.

By contrast, Korea Inc. has been represented by large conglomerates such as the Samsung and Hyundai Motor groups instead of small corporations. This has been seen as a potential weakness.

Park and Merkel share many things in common.

In May, the Forbes magazine published the world’s 100 most influential women with Merkel topping the table for three consecutive years ― Park was listed as 11th.

From the perspective of Park who leads one half of the divided Korean Peninsula, she can learn something from Merkel whose country attained national reunification in 1990.

They are also close ― Park dubbed Merkel as a role model. The German chancellor was one of the first world leaders who congratulated Park’s political success.

Just after Park won the presidential race last December, Merkel called Park to invite the latter to Berlin in 2013, the invitation was accepted by Park.

The official schedule is not fixed yet but political analysts expect that she may fly to Berlin in November when she has a state visit to the United Kingdom.

Park also had one-one-one meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev to discuss ways of strengthening relationships.

Health Mania : Phytoestrogen, is it natural and safe?

By Lee Hye-jun

Suddenly an intense heat hits all over the head and neck. On top of being unpleasant, it is embarrassing to be the only one sweating in the room. Knee joints ache, but doctors do not find anything wrong. It is hard to get sound sleep at night. It hurts during sexual intercourse, and sometimes bleeding occurs.

Menopause brings various kinds of discomfort to women, mostly caused by estrogen deprivation. The introduction of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was sensational. It cured them all. It not only reduced menopausal discomfort, but it also seemed to revive women’s youth. But in 2002, the tragic news came out; the risk of breast cancer, stroke and heart disease was reported to increase in HRT users. It was later revealed that the previous report contained major errors and the researchers say the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks. Yet, women are still reluctant to get HRT. Instead, they began to look for something more “natural.”

Phytoestrogens, extracted from plants (phyto means plant in Greek), are structurally similar to estrogens. The most well-known among them is isoflavone found abundantly in soybeans and red clover; women must have heard at least once that soybeans are good for them. Therefore it was suggested that phytoestrogen can replace HRT’s role in reducing hot flushes and cardiovascular protection. Additionally, they believe that as a “natural” product, phytoestrogen should be harmless unlike HRT.

Phytoestrogen sounds attractive to menopausal women. They want to stay young and get rid of all the menopausal symptoms, but they don’t want any of the risk of HRT either. But with phytoestrogen, what is there to lose? The worst thing that can happen is to waste some money.

Actually, phytoestrogen can be harmful. To begin with, its effectiveness against menopausal symptoms as well as the safety is not proven. The results of studies vary, but in most of the well-designed ones phytoestrogen was no better than a placebo in reducing hot flushes and improving cardiovascular function. Also, whether phytoestrogen imposes any health risks is unknown. Moreover, soy is one of the most common sources of allergies, putting some women at serious risk. Furthermore, the preparations of phytoestrogen may contain a mixture of unlabeled ingredients in unclear concentrations. Thus, taking phytoestrogen is not a nothing-to-lose-option.

In recent studies, the researchers found that HRT is likely to induce the growth of existing cancer cells in breasts rather than new tumor cells, resulting in a mild form of cancer. So breast cancer patients after HRT survived longer than patients without an HRT history. In addition, when used at the early stage of menopause, HRT can provide cardiovascular protection.

We all feel drawn to something “natural.” It sounds more physiologically safe. But we should look closely at which is truly physiologically safe — a mixture of unknown ingredients that has no proven effect or harm, or a well-defined component with minimal amount of estrogen and progestin that have proven benefits and known risks? The latter sounds better to me.

The writer is a doctor at Maria Fertility Hospital in Seoul. For further questions, send an e-mail to the writer at, or call the hospital’s English-speaking coordinator at (02)2250-5577, or visit the hospital’s website,

Incheon Archipelago Yields Desert-like Islet


Desert islets that almost magically grow out of the sea are few and far between, but a day trip to Daeijak Island near Incheon affords precious access to one, as well as superb views of the surrounding sea from its various peaks.

It takes about two hours to reach Daeijak from ferry terminals in either Incheon or nearby Daebu Island. Upon arrival, visitors are advised to check the time of the tides and head straight to the southwest of the island so they are within view of Puldeung islet -- a huge sandbar that comes into view at low tide, measuring 5 km by 1 km. As most ferries reach Daeijak when the tide is ebbing, this should be considered the first sightseeing stop of any tour here.

For the best views of Puldeung, head to the middle of Daeijak and look for the totem pole near its main intersection. Once here, turn right to Jageunpulan Beach.

Tickets to enter the islet can be purchased here, with ferries leaving regularly from its wooden promenade. It is only a short journey to Puldeung, which, due to the blazing sun at this time of year, makes visitors feel as though they have arrived in the middle of a desert encircled by the sea.

As the islet is fully submerged once a day, it retains its pristine nature. Visitors can soak up the scenery for a maximum of three hours before taking the boat trip back to the larger island.

Jageunpulan Beach also has its fair share of attractions. This small but popular spot commands great views and offer plenty of amenities and accommodations.

Most of the beaches on the island have gentle slopes and fine sand, making them safe for kids to play on and enjoy water activities there. Camping sites with restrooms and clear drinking water are also available in its pine forest that opens onto several beaches.

One of the island's highest slopes, Mt. Bua, contains a park with an octagonal pavilion and an observatory granting panoramic views of neighboring islands such as Soijakdo and Seungbongdo.

Daeijak is also a decent destination for climbing enthusiasts. Some people arrive here in the morning and climb Mt. Bua (159 m) and Mt. Songi (188.5 m) before heading home in the afternoon. It takes just three or four hours to walk along the gentle mountain ridges.

Those who prefer exploring every nook and cranny of the island can bring their own tents and stay overnight, giving them more time to sunbathe, fish, barbecue or drink with friends in a picturesque setting for some unforgettable memories.

Visitors are advised to bring their own equipment and food and beverages as prices are higher than on the mainland. But daily necessities, sodas and alcohol beverages can be purchases easily at kiosks on the pier and beaches.

There is no public transportation on the island, but those who reserve rooms or other accommodation facilities can enjoy private pickup services. Ferry tickets to the island can be booked online at


Experience The Changing Ecosystems on Wetland Treks and Tours of Korea


Korea is known for its four distinct seasons. Each has its distinct charms and properties, giving rise to changing ecosystems depending on the time of year as different flora and water plants sprout up and color the landscape. It is best to observe the lotus blossom and other water plants, for example, between the months of August and October.

Wetland Tours in Ulsan

With an eco tour program around the constructed wetlands in the Hoiya Dam, the city of Ulsan in the southeastern part of the country is now one of best places to get closer to nature around this time.

A local guide conducts the tours around a 4.6-km circuit while also providing clear explanations of the history, topography, flora and fauna of the landscape. As there is little natural shade and the terrain can at times be a little challenging to navigate, hiking boots or sturdy sneakers, cold drinks and baseball hats or sun visors are strongly recommended.

Access to the wetlands is restricted to protect the environment and its wildlife, meaning that just 100 people can visit the area each day by signing up for one of the tours, which only run for a certain period. The dense forest of tall trees retains a pristine charm and provides a refreshing atmosphere as visitors stroll along a trail inside it.

After walking for about 30 minutes, the wetlands come into view. Lotus flowers grow over a 50,000 sq.m area, while a larger field of reeds stretches for a breathtaking 123,000 sq.m. Some 40 species of aquatic plants, such as sweet flag and water snowflake, are grown here. Visitors sometimes receive free gifts of powdered lotus roots that have been cultivated and processed in the area to take home as keepsakes.

For more information about the free tour program, visit the city's website at

◆ Mt. Soimi Eco-Village in Busan

Those who are interested in learning more about a remote village's ecosystem can attend free classes on this subject at a beautiful location on Mt. Soimi in Busan's Dongnae-gu every Saturday from April to October.

Eco-tours from the village to nearby wetlands are also available. On the first and third Wednesdays of each month during this period, students often head there on field trips, while group and family tours take precedence on the second and fourth Saturdays.

More information can be found at

◆ Junam Wetlands Park in Changwon

Junam Wetlands Park in Changwon serves as the nation's largest habitat for migratory birds due to optimum conditions as the water here does not freeze in winter. Visitors can watch them nestle and feed among the reeds and ponds.

For more information, visit the park's website at


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Korean Cool: How the Tiger Peninsula is Seducing the World

Stroll around most major North American cities and you’ll find a large community of Korean restaurants and stores that illuminate the downtown core and surrounding neighborhoods. Chances are you’ll find a large library of Korean film in your local video store if you live in an eclectic hub like Montreal, or if you happen to be visiting Japan, you’ll get to see one of K-pop’s hottest quartets 2AM at K-Fest Summer!an event entirely devoted to the media phenomenon. From university Korean Societies to entire communities of expats and second generations, the presence of Korean culture is loud, strong, and welcomed with open arms around the world.

Korean Cuisine a Cosmopolitan Hit

Korean cuisine is one of the most popular cultural exports showing up on the menu of trendy eats today. Healthy and delicious, bulgolgi, gimbap, mandoo and kimchi grace the tables in restaurants which are cropping up in every borough, where establishments strive to produce a fine-dining experience with a peaceful and classy ambience resonating Korean cool. It’s become a staple of cosmopolitan education, with westerners striving to perfect their palate, master the use of chopsticks, and turn their hand to making Korean recipes at home – made easier by the increasing number of Korean markets, catered to everyone.

Pop Culture & Entertainment

But food isn’t just the only aspect of Korean culture to take the world by storm. The K-pop industry is a booming economy, generating more than 700 million US dollars per year. Sensations like Super Junior, Big Bang, SNSD and soloists like Rain and Hyorin are just a few of the big-star names to hit the charts, not to mention the smash wonder “Gangnam Style” by Psy, scoring over 2 billion views on YouTube and followed by a wave of fan-made tributes. Glamorous looks, skilled choreography and passionate lyrics in the form of ballads and beats have captured the hearts of youngsters everywhere, evolving into its own unique subculture.

In the same vein, Korean dramas are becoming another sought-after commodity on television networks and online. From the historical epics to contemporary romance, “drama fever” has been raging overseas with avid followers in China, Japan, the Philippines, and America with its highly-charged characters and conceits, and a powerful theatricality which has become so provocative to global audiences. Its literary counterpart, Korean animation or Han-guk Manhwa Aenimeisyeon, is promising to make a big splash in the cartoon world this year with its UK debut The King of Pigs inspired by Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River.

Cinema of Korea

Without a doubt, Korean cinema has achieved mightier success with the Korean film industry valued at approximately $1.4 trillion US in 2012. The juxtaposition of the brutal and beautiful in thrillers like Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy, (2004 Cannes Festival Grand Prix Winner) has ignited a long-list of masterpieces occupying record stores, mainstream venues, and international film festivals. Now, cities on the other side of the world are devoting their entire program to Korean content; from summer celebrations in Toronto, Canada to The London Film Festival coming up in autumn, people want more of this poignant art form which eludes competing industries. Recognition from leading universities, directors and actors have helped to cement Korea’s artistic legacy onscreen, as well as invoking Hollywood to take on bleaker, more complex imagery itself.

Art, Architecture, & Music

Yet film isn’t the only genre to ride the Korean Wave. Korea’s magnificent history of traditional and modern art is dominating exhibits and living rooms worldwide. From the ground-breaking work of Nam June Paik to the Korean Bell Gardens at Meadowlark in Virginia, US, more people are seeking to fulfill their curiosity surrounding Korean culture, even imitating it. Workspaces, cafes, and homes from abroad are adopting a Korean d├ęcor and filling their spaces with Korean art, while ambitious architects construct new buildings which suggest a hint of Korean flavor and lobbies are lulled to the haunting tones of a Korean folk tune, yet another export which has received popular applause thanks to the likes of soprano Jo Sumi and others.

Hungering for Sport

Since Korea co-hosted and dominated the 2002 World Cup, the world has shifted its eyes towards the peninsula. National team captain and Manchester United midfielder Park Ji Sung has enjoyed a rapturous response from English fans as well as at home. Olympians Park Tae-Hwan and compatriot Kim Yuna have stunned audiences with their spectacular performances, while mountaineer Oh Eun-Sun crossed a milestone for women by becoming the first female explorer to scale the world’s tallest peaks. Korea’s soccer and baseball teams continue to set the bar high and show the world what perseverance, persistence, and passion can achieve. Be it Taekwondo – the national sport which enjoys great popularity in the West – or pro-gaming for the strategy-based game Starcraft, Korea’s role is ever-increasing the multiculturalism – as well as the caliber – of the sporting world.

Community At Home and Abroad

It’s not just about icons and mass-media, though. While not exclusively Korean, Buddhism and Confucianism have influenced the habits and practices of much of the world. With a highly capitalist society striving to find meaning, people are turning further east to find answers for their daily struggles. Temples, classes, and courses are now regular aspects of cosmopolitan city life, and several bookstores and libraries accommodate this curiosity by supplying a comprehensive spirituality section geared toward newcomers with a western perspective.

Leading the Way

The love-affair with Korean culture has drawn in people who to experience it first-hand as well, with more than 11 million overseas visitors making the peninsula their destination of choice in 2012. Due to economic and corporate investment, the country has also attracted native English teachers – primarily from Canada, Australia, and the US to make Korea their home for a few years. Thanks to an excellent health care service for visitors, bilingualism, efficient transportation system and friendly, helpful people, Korea has become one of the most accessible destinations in East Asia. The great health service provision is of importance to many visitors and ex-pats, who take advantage of local facilities as well as additional health resources online. It’s one of the best choices for working abroad, attracting the best young minds of the west while Korea continues to implement its own innovative ideas with industry-leading powers like Samsung (with a net worth of over $200 billion and Apple’s best competitor in the tablet generation) and car manufacturers like Hyundai.

While Korea continues to pave the way for the future, more global companies, institutions and organizations look for Korean minds. An unbeatable work-ethic and desire for perfection, as well as the vast trove of historical and cultural treasures which are distinct to Korean heritage have enriched and enlightened the lives of millions of people all across the world, and will continue to do so for generations to come.