A new book uncovers the roots of the 'Korean Wave', a fanaticism for South Korean pop culture that has enabled the nation that once banned miniskirts, long hair on men, and rock 'n' roll to mass produce boy bands, soap operas, and a popular smart phone.
The popularity of Psy's song Gangnam Style (2012) is no passing fad. The song is only one tool in South Korea's elaborate and effective strategy to project itself as a top pop culture exporter, according to journalist-writer Euny Hong.
Her book, The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture, recounts how South Korea vaulted itself into the 21st century, becoming a global leader in business, technology, education, and pop culture.
The book, published by Simon & Schuster, features success stories and numerous interviews with Koreans working in all areas of government and society.
As a child, Hong moved from the US to the Gangnam neighbourhood in Seoul. She was a witness to the most accelerated part of South Korea's economic development, during which time it leapfrogged from third-world military dictatorship to first-world liberal democracy on the cutting edge of global technology.
According to the author, other countries have gone from rags to riches in the last century, but among these, only South Korea has the cheek to set its sights on becoming the world's top exporter of popular culture.
"South Korean soap operas, music, movies, video games, and junk food already dominate the Asian cultural scene. In fact, South Korea has been the tastemaker of Asia for over a decade, and its Westward expansion is inevitable. You may not even realise that it is already underway," she writes.