The Korean Wave - 한류 - Hallyu - The explosion of Korean TV, movies, food and culture

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 28, 2008 01:50pm | Post a Comment
korean actors and actresses

's recent global rise in profile is sometimes referred to as "The Korean Wave" or Hallyu. Back in the early 1990s, Korean Drama underwent an explosive growth in popularity around East and Southeast Asia as well as in cities like Los Angeles, with large immigrant populations from these regions. Soon, Korean movies (beginning with Shiri) gained an audience among American critics who'd previously (with close-minded, snobbish prejudice) limited their viewings of Asian films to critically-canonized Japanese and/or (1980s) Chinese productions. And Hollywood has taken notice too, remaking numerous K-Horror films, the romcom My Sassy Girl, and the magic-mailbox drama The Lake House.

I'm told Korean music grew in popularity too. I guess I know a couple of non-Koreans who listen to K-Pop. Whilst flipping through the unparalleled multiculturalism of Los Angeles' AM radio band, I've occasionally stumbled across Radio Seoul (AM 1650) and Radio Korea (AM 1230). Just judging from the cadence and character of AM radio in general, I'd guess that the majority is Christian in nature, but they do occasionally play Korean pop music. Last year at the Hollywood Bowl, K-Pop was showcased in a program featuring BoA, Epik High, Fly to the Sky, Ivy and Super Junior.

Probably the most visible (and olfactory) evidence of Korea's rising profile is in the large number of Korean restaurants and the non-Koreans' resultant discussions of where "the best" Korean food is found. Everyone now knows about kimchi and where they stand on that popular dish. Jajangmyeon, various banchan, anju & beer and bulgogi are also fairly well-known among culinary tourists who've gone to shikdangs or a pongjanmacha at an area farmer's market.

If you're like me, and you don't have cable TV, you may've (in curiosity or desperation) flipped through the Southland's scores of local stations past the shopping networks, megachurch sermons, narco movies, and used car commercials and stumbled across K-Dramas being shown on KSCI or KXLA. They usually have subtitles and I've, on occasion, watched partial episodes of unknown series. After a few scenes on a few dramas, it becomes evident that the popularity of K-Dramas owes to their ability to transcend their cultural and geographic origins by dealing with universally popular issues of love, work, loving a co-worker, difficult in-laws and love triangles, all told without the raciness of their also-popular counterparts, American Soap Operas and Latino telenovelas. The conventions of Korean Dramas (sensitive guys with improbable hair, repressed love, etc) have, since their rise in popularity, even become the subject of parody. Look for former Amoeba employee Steve Lee in his brother (Bobby Lee)'s satirical K-Drama, Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive.

The popularity of Korean dramas first spread across Asia. In Iran, there's currently a Korean Drama showcase on their state-operated network Channel 2 called Korean Wave. On China's government-run station, Korean dramas account for the majority of the programing and China is consequently considering imposing restrictions on the amount of airtime devoted to them. Taiwan and Vietnam's governments are also weighing the idea of banning Korean Dramas since they've taken over the airwaves at the expense of homegrown shows.

More recently, Korean Dramas have invaded the airwaves of  Brazil, Chile and Mexico. At Amoeba, a completely unscientific poll has revealed that most of our K-Drama fans are young Latinas.

Here at Amoeba, our top selling K-Dramas are (in alphabetical order):
All About Eve
Love to Kill
My Lovely Sam-Soon
Palace Princess Hours
Peppermint Candy
Prince's First Love
Sad Love Story


In the face of Korea's meteoric ascendancy on the world stage, some Japanese have instigated a backlash against the Korean Wave. Manga Kenkanryū (which translates to Manga-The Anti Korean) is part of the so-called "Hate Korea Wave" which some cultural theorists have suggested stems from bitterness over the perception that Japan has slipped from the position they had in the 1980s of East Asia's dominant exporter of culture. The manga in question depicts the Japanese as more diverse, fun, Bambi-eyed free spirits who are contrasted to the Koreans, who are depicted as tiny-eyed, loud, arrogant elitists who owe their success to Japan's superior culture, which they borrow from.

Whilst today Ice Cube is primarily known as a star of unwatchable children's films, he was once at the vanguard of the Hate Korea Wave.

As a response, some in Korea have responded with the "Hate Japan Wave" or Hyeomillyu. Two artists, Yang Byeong-seol and Kim Sung Mo have each produced Manhwas both under the same name (Hyeomillyu). I'm no expert in funny pages but it seems a queer place to settle your scores.


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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Alhambra, the Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 5, 2007 05:00pm | Post a Comment

I had to go to
Alhambra to see a man about a horse at the bidding of the original San Gabriel Valley Girl, the always radiant Ngoc Nguyen. To vote for another Los Angeles neighborhood, vote here. To vote for a Los Angeles County Community, vote here. To vote for more Orange County communites, click here

Pendersleigh & SonsOfficial Map of the San Gabriel Valley


Alhambra is on the western edge of the San Gabriel Valley between posh
San Marino, trendy South Pasadena, old San Gabriel, blue collar Rosemead, and the most Chinese city in the US, Monterey Park.

Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Alhambra

The center of Alhambra is the intersection of Garfield and Main, which has functioned as the hub of town at least since 1895.

                          Garfield and Main, 1890                            Garfield and Main, 2007 improved with an Applebees

My favorite historical site, however, isn't really too historical. There's a great shopping center, New Valley Shopping Center, built in 1964. Its main anchor is replaced the 168 Market -- a subsidiary of Ranch 99 Market. It's one of those many, amazing LA simulacra that make what would normally be a boring stripp mall feel like a visit to Disneyland. This shopping center is, much more successfully than the Cerritos Auto Mile, going for a New Orleans French Quarter vibe with a gazebo, faux wrought-iron street lamps and balconies, and a cupola with a liberty bell. And in this beautiful setting, things get pretty third world, just in the Big Easy. 

New Valley Shopping Center


By the 1950s, Garfield and Main was the hippest place in the San Gabriel Valley and was predominantly populated mostly by Italian-Americans. The following decade saw an influx of Latinos from surrounding areas and Anglos moving to other suburbs. In the late 1960s Alhambra was a hotbed of anti-Vietnam War protests and Brown Beret activity. By the mid 1970s tensions rose between the predominantly Anglo "surfers" and cholos. Many
Taiwanese began to move to the neighborhood, followed by Chinese from the mainland, Vietnamese, Cambodians and other Asians
. Today the population is roughly 47% Asian (mostly Chinese and Vietnamese), 36% Latino (Mostly Mexicans of any race), and 14% white.


The San Gabriel Valley is widely recognized for having the best collection of restaurants in Los Angeles County. Being the gateway to the SGV, entering Alhambra on bike I was always hit with a blast of delicious fragrances emanating from kitchens and restaurants. Even though they make up a very small percentage of Los Angeles's Asian-American population, Los Angeles being the great city of the
Pacific Rim it should be no surprise that the highest population of Indonesians is in Los Angeles County. The highest concentration within Los Angeles County is in Alhambra. I mention this first because Indonesian cuisine is one of the world's greatest and Alhambra boasts a few places to get it. Borneo Kalimantan CuisineIndo Kitchen, and Wong Java House. One can also get Indonesian and/or Indonesian-inspired dishes at Garden Café, Savoy Kitchen, and maybe Noodle World. That being said, there's no place in Alhambra that I've eaten more than Yazmin Malaysian Restaurant -- representing the cuisine of Indonesia's neighbor to the north -- Malaysia, of course. I'm also a fan of Banh Mi Che Cali, the Alhambra Lee’s Sandwiches (don’t hate!), Thai Purple, and at least the fried zucchini at Rick’s

In addition to the aforementioned cuisines and restaurants, Alhambra boasts a number of American, Cajun, Chinese, Dim Sum, Hawaiian, Hu, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Taiwanese, Thai, Vietnamese restaurants including the following:

Amoeba's Asian Cinema Section

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 5, 2007 01:55pm | Post a Comment
When Amoeba opened, Asian films were primarily divided between a Hong Kong section, a Japan section, the Foreign section and martial arts. Eventually we created a massive, Pan-Asian section (with martial arts still separated. However, Chaz has just divided the Asian section into Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Miscellaneous Asian sections. So, here's the top sellers from these new sections:
                                           Wong Kar-Wai                                                                                       John Woo 

Amoeba's Chinese Top 10:

Raise the Red Lantern
In the Mood For Love

Hard Boiled

Chungking Express
Wong Kar-Wai Collection
Days Of Being Wild
Infernal Affairs
The Killer
Shanghai Triad

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