Hallyu: The Korean Wave at the Victoria & Albert Museum

This article outlines some of the displays you can visit at the Hallyu: The Korean Wave exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Psy section at the Hallyu: The Korean Wave exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum
Psy section at the Hallyu: The Korean Wave exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum

South Korea has had a remarkable journey within living memory from a land ravaged by conflict during the mid-1950s to an influential cultural giant at the start of the 21st century.

Since the late 1990s, hallyu – or Korean wave – has increased in popularity as Asian audiences embraced Korean television dramas and cinema. But it was not until the mid-2000s that this trend truly began to gain global traction with a booming music industry at its helm - thanks in part to the widespread use of online resources such as social media and Gen Z’s current interest in K-pop culture.

Oppan Gangnam Style

On July 15, 2012, Park Jae-Sang - better known as PSY - made a mark on history when his irresistibly catchy song Gangnam Style debuted on YouTube. His music video spread like wildfire overnight, achieving numerous viewing records and awards. By May 2014, the piece had been viewed two billion times worldwide! Thanks to him, South Korea was thrust into the spotlight of global recognition. As you walk into the exhibit, you’ll be greeted with the familiar song and music video, as well as some fan renditions of the song when it was the global topic of the year.

Parasite

Artistic posters for the movie Parasite
Artistic posters for the movie Parasite

Parasite is an innovative mixture of comedy and tragedy, unlike anything you’ve seen before. Through the incredible genre-fluidity of its creator’s vision, this story explores two disparate families from polar opposite sides of the economic ladder. From murder mysteries to dystopian fantasies and beyond, Bong Joon-ho has created unparalleled film experiences, culminating in this hit movie from 2019. You may even find a familiar location from the film at the exhibit when you visit!

Squid Game

Guard and prisoner outfits from the hit TV series Squid Game
Guard and prisoner outfits from the hit TV series Squid Game

On September 17 2021, Squid Game - a Netflix series directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk in Korea - was released and amazingly, within 10 days, had become the platform’s highest-ranking show in an impressive 90 countries worldwide. It is a historic moment for Koreans as it’s the first time that one of their dramas has ever been at the top of the US charts; an incredible 95% of its viewers live outside South Korea! So don’t forget to check out the iconic costumes when you visit, but be wary of anyone offering a round of ddakji…

K-pop

Sculpture of G-Dragon from K-pop group Big Bang
Sculpture of G-Dragon from K-pop group Big Bang

The monumental three-meter high sculpture of G-Dragon, crafted by Gwon Osang; the iridescent ensembles from aespa’s Next Level music video and British punk fashion-inspired designs donned by four members from ATEEZ in their music video Fireworks are among this section’s highlights. The V&A has also collaborated with celebrated K-pop Style & Visual Director Gee Eun, known for styling BLACKPINK and BIGBANG, and Style Director Balko, whose work encompasses BTS and NCT - presenting two idol looks each. And for those who fancy their dance moves, you can even participate in a rendition of some popular K-pop dances at the venue.