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Our Critics’ Guide to Korean Culture | Culture

Kitty Empire on music

Perhaps in 2012 you imitated the pony ride, Gangnam Style. Some argue, however, that the K-pop drug Psy was a novelty, not the true expression of a precisely crafted, sex-group phenomenon like K-Pop. Sonically, K-pop beats Western pop in its own game, taking the busier, upbeat end of American R&B and supercharging it by filling each track with multiple melodies, dozens of introductory choruses, and sometimes a little Korean tradition: TikTok was born for K-pop, and it turns out to be Korean is a great language for rapping.

Beyond established stars such as BTS, BlackPink, and Monsta X rookies, the K-Pop universe is vast and deep. Loon’s fledgling group brings together dozens of meme-worthy snippets, while Aespa’s 2020 hit Black Mamba introduced the band with an alter ego from a parallel universe. Boys prefer uppercase names like EXO and, perhaps frustratingly, for the UK’s National Childbirth Trust, NCT; TXT has taken over a more pop-punk and emo genre.

But Korean music is much more than pop on steroids. The superb Park Jiha is an ambient producer that combines Western minimalism with traditional Korean instruments. The Dal: um duo is even more minimalist, trading lines on gayageum and geomungo, spaces as important as notes.

Park Jiha and Dal: um play at London’s K-Music 2022 festival on November 24th and October 5th

Guy Lodge on film

Kim Jee-woon’s shadow age. Photo: Atlaspix / Alamy

ParasiteThe best historical movie, an Academy Award winner, has brought modern Korean cinema to the mainstream, but Bong Joon-ho’s cunning class war thriller is not an isolated hit. New converts should also look for Lee Chang-dong’s richly philosophical work (including Murakami’s masterful adaptation). Smoking)hilarious, sagging comedies Hong Sang-soo (Right Now, Wrong Then), wild genre styling by Kim Jee-woon (never more accessible than in his lush spy saga Age of shadows) and of course Park Chan-wook’s diverse work, from a brutal manga-inspired action film Old boy to his coolly erotic remix of Sarah Waters Handmaid.

Michael Hogan on TV

Hellbound on Netflix.
Hellbound, another great Korean hit after Squid Game on Netflix. Photo: Jung Jaegu | Netflix / Netflix

Korean drama made its way into the stratosphere during the blockade thanks to a viral hit Playing squids, but the domestic TV industry has long been relentlessly growing. Melodrama Winter Sonata and epic period A gem in a palace started the K wave in the first decade of the 21st century. The Rakuten Viki streaming service is now home to later gems such as romance Guardian: Lonely and great god and retro goes crazy Reply 1988.

Netflix launched in Korea in 2016 and has invested millions in local production. An old zombie thriller Kingdom was the first Korean original, before the horror movie chiller Sweet Home became the first K-drama to break into the US top ten. Last fall, an apocalyptic fantasy Hellish overtook Playing squids on Netflix’s most watched charts, while Apple TV + released its first Korean show, the science fiction mystery Dr. Brain.

The drama flood of K shows no signs of slowing down. Gangster saga Narco-Saints will come to Netflix next Friday. Think Breaking Bad with the addition of bibimbap …


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