It can't have escaped your attention that South Korea has been flexing its soft power during the last few decades. Whether it's by unleashing Gangnam Style on an unsuspecting public or by wowing audiences with tense films like Parasite or nail-biting TV shows like Squid Game, South Korea has managed to capture the public's imagination via its popular culture.
To celebrate the country's contribution to the arts, London's V&A is running a landmark exhibition from 24 September 2022 until 25 June 2023. Titled Hallyu! The Korean Wave, it will explore how South Korea has evolved over the decades from a country ravaged by war to become one of the twenty-first century's biggest creative powerhouses.
Featuring roughly 200 objects split across four thematic sections, the exhibition will look at South Korea's progression during the twentieth century, its contribution to film, how it's shaping the world of music through K-pop, and the ways in which the country's beauty and fashion have shaped a globally-recognisable aesthetic.
Rosalie Kim, curator of Hallyu! The Korean Wave said: "South Korea has captivated the world over with Hallyu, its vibrant and creative popular culture, which has transformed the country's image from one devastated by the Korean War to that of a leading cultural powerhouse in the era of social media and digital culture today.
"This phenomenon has been amplified by tech-savvy and socially conscious global fanbases, further raising the profile and relevance of Hallyu around the world. We're delighted to bring its energy and dynamism to the V&A this autumn in the first exhibition of its kind."
Visitors to the exhibition can look forward to seeing South Korea's history told through photography, posters and archive material, as well as objects including posters from the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics and early electronic equipment the country became renowned for producing, such as the world's first commercial MP3 player. There will also be a monumental 1986 video sculpture by the artist Nam June Paik, featuring 33 TV monitors.
As for the film section, it will feature multimedia, installations, posters, props and costumes. The iconic pink and green tracksuits from Netflix hit series Squid Game will be on display, as will a recreation of the bathroom set from Bong Joon-Ho's Oscar-winning film Parasite. Re-created under the guidance of its acclaimed Production Designer Lee Ha Jun, this set is making its debut at Hallyu! The Korean Wave.
Posters, ephemera and album covers from early K-pop bands like Seo Taiji and Boys and BoA will be found in the music section, alongside an immersive room which will play excerpts by the likes of BIGBANG, NCT and BLACKPINK. "A highlight in the 'Sounding K-pop and Fandoms' section is an interactive K-pop dance challenge, which invites visitors to try their hand at the dance moves for PSY's 'That That', co-written and co-produced with SUGA from BTS, with choreography by B.B Trippin," adds the V&A.
If you've still got energy left after that, the fourth and final section – Making K-beauty and Fashion – will delve into how South Korea's innovative and experimental approach to style led to the creation of a wholly unique aesthetic both in and outside of the country.
Highlighting everything from product placement in K-dramas to cosmetics packaging from the 13th century, this section looks at how Korean beauty standards have been amplified on the world stage. "Hallyu! concludes with K-fashion, showcasing over 20 looks by contemporary hanbok and fashion designers from Korea and the Korean diaspora," the museum adds.
For more information and details on how to book your tickets to Hallyu! The Korean Wave, when it opens this weekend, click here.