Critical review-Korean Wave
The article ‘image is everything: re-imaging traditional music in the era of the Korean Wave’ by Hilary V. Finchum-Sung is a 2009 publication in the Journal of the Southwest Review of Asian Studies, volume 31. In this article, Finchum-Sung (2009) looks into how hallyu has contributed to the presentation of traditional Korean music in a contemporary setting. As such, the Korean Wave (hallyu) is seen as a tool for marketing South Korea internationally even as the aim to promote Korean culture is given preeminence.
Finchum-Sung (2009) starts by appreciating that performing art and specifically imagery is a powerful tool for communicating a certain theme such as seen in wedding romantic videos. As such, hallyu which involves incorporating imagery and sound tracks in presenting traditional Korean music in a contemporary society is taken as a tool for enhancing Korean culture locally and internationally. The author of this article acknowledges the contribution of the South Korea’s government through the Ministry of Culture Sports and Tourism in enhancing this. Traditional Korean music (kugak) is blended with contemporary music setting thus attracting the attention of contemporary audience in South Korea and away. In this article, Finchum-Sung (2009) highlights various efforts that have been applied to enhance the Korean culture including stage performances, Web sites and campaigns that are aimed at defining South Korea’s image. Finchum-Sung (2009) observes that while traditional Korean music has been modernized, it has been a government approach of enhancing tourism and the local audience may not be reconnecting with the said tradition. This therefore portrays the Korean wave as a tool of trade (tourism).
It is acknowledgeable that imagery is a powerful tool for communication as exemplified by the theatre setting in Sangmyong Art Hall. With images, it is possible to pass information that could not have been communicated effectively through any other mode. As such, it is appreciable that the traditional Korean music can communicate strongly to its audience when presented with the aid of images. It is evident that the government can be very influential in preservation and continuity of important cultural heritage. Were it not for the Korean government’s policy in 1962 that sought to preserve Korean cultural heritage, perhaps kugak would have been eroded by now. In addition, the popular blended traditional Korean music has been popularized among all groups of people in the society (learned, young, old, and women) signifying that the traditional contemporary music is a powerful tool for unifying people in a nation let alone acting as people’s identity internationally.
Despite the great appreciation of the role of the government in preserving cultural heritage, the same government may be central to depriving people the “tangibility” of the heritage. In this article, Finchum-Sung (2009), portrays the South Korean government as being motivated by economic gains through tourism than the real enhancement of Korean culture. The locals feel disconnected from the said heritage since the modernized tradition music targets international audience. The assumption that the local population/audience is familiar with a culture is frustrating to the local audience and a feeling of emptiness in the said culture is almost inevitable.
It is important to weigh between incorporating contemporary aspects of performing arts in traditional art as a way of preserving heritage and the likelihood of bringing confusion in definition. The Korean Wave is an example of how modernization of heritage can erode the meaning and the real taste of tradition. Striking a balance between these two aspects is the most important way of preserving and enhancing traditions. Otherwise, it would be a case of enhancing economic gains in the name of popularizing cultures locally and abroad.
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