or the first time, a major exhibition on Korean culture will be held in the UK. And there’s not long to wait: Hallyu! The Korean Wave will open at the V&A in September.
From props and costumes from some of the country’s most popular shows and movies, to posters and fashion looks, to sculptures and photographs, the exhibition will showcase the massive explosion of Korean culture that is now taking the world.
There will be around 200 items for attendees, drawn over the decades as South Korea grew into a cultural powerhouse.
Hallyu is a term that literally means Korean Wave. It’s usually used to refer to the boom in Korean culture we see in the world today – whether it’s music, TV shows, movies, skincare, or even food.
The most famous examples of British popular culture are the Oscar-winning film Parasite, Netflix’s Squid Game, boy band BTS and singer Psy’s song Gangnam Style, although Korea’s cultural influence has slowly grown since the late 1990s.
The exhibition will be divided into four parts. The first is From Rubble to Smartphones, where audiences will follow the war-torn country through history as it continues its rapid industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s, hosts the Seoul Summer Olympics, sails through the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and becomes a digital world leader.
The second, Setting the Scene, is all about K-dramas. Using posters, storyboards, multimedia, installations and props, the exhibition will explore recurring themes and Korean narratives. Audiences will be able to see costumes from Squid Game and Kingdom, props from The Handmaiden, as well as a recreation of Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite bathroom.
Global Groove is the third section, and as you can imagine, it’s all about music, especially K-Pop. The hallway leading to the gallery will be lined with fan glow sticks, then the exhibit will trace the musical genre back to its beginnings – complete with album covers and posters by Seo Taiji and Boys and BoA.
Then it’s all about K-Pop idols, with a three-meter-tall sculpture of G-Dragon by Gwon Osang, and outfits worn by stars at various stages – including the iridescent looks worn by Aespa in their music video. NextLevel.
The fourth and final section will be called Inside Out and will focus on K-beauty and fashion. The exhibition will trace the evolution of packaging design, and 20 outfits by fashion designers from Korea and the Korean diaspora will be displayed. There will also be a specially designed look by stylist Suh Younghee. Clothing from C-ZANN E, Danha, Tchai Kim, Kim Seo Ryong, Minju Kim, Münn, and Miss Sohee will also be featured.
Rosalie Kim, curator of the exhibition, said: “South Korea has captivated the world with hallyu, its vibrant and creative popular culture, which has transformed the image of the country devastated by the Korean war into that of a a leading cultural power in the age of social media and digital culture today.
“This phenomenon has been amplified by tech-savvy and socially conscious global fans, further raising hallyu’s profile and relevance around the world, and we are thrilled to bring his energy and dynamism to the V&A this fall in the first exhibition of it’s nice.”
Hallyu! The Korean Wave will open at the V&A on September 24. Tickets cost £20 and are available to purchase here.