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The glam and glitter of India’s K-Pop Revolution

India's K-pop revolution

How it all started

In the second summer of the pandemic, my roommate developed an obsession with K-dramas. Night after night, she would be captivated by the sentimental shows released by Netflix in 2021, such as Vincenzo, Tale of the Nine Tailed, and Love Alarm. It seemed that Indian Gen Z and millennials couldn’t get enough of them. While Americans may have invented binge-watching, the Koreans have perfected it.

One young Indian girl, Radhika Bangia, living in New Zealand, also fell in love with K-dramas during the lockdown. Inspired by shows like The King and Boys Over Flowers, she began creating short reels and sketches on Instagram. Her talent caught the attention of the South Indian film industry, and she was offered an audition for a major Kannada production. Before she knew it, she found herself dancing to the ‘Monster’ song in KGF: Chapter 2. With her exceptional self-branding and social media skills, she has gained recognition and opportunities from prominent Korean media companies like Wong Fu Productions and Viki Rakuten.

Captivating a mass audience

These stories are part of a broader trend in which young Indian artists are embracing Korean culture as a means of self-expression. K-dramas not only provide soul-comforting and entertaining content like Bollywood movies but also propagate the notion of positive racialization. Indian youth no longer resonate as strongly with American web series that often revolve around ruthless double agents and cold-hearted diplomats.

In March 2023, a report by Duolingo revealed that Korean ranked as the third most preferred language among recreational learners in states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and West Bengal. Indian singers like Priyanka Mazumdar of Z-Girls and Sriya Lenka of BLACKSWAN have already made their mark in the K-pop industry. Aria, a Kerala-born singer in her early twenties, has become the youngest member of the Seoul-based girl group X:IN. These achievements reflect the dedication and hard work put in by Indian teenagers who started out by releasing amateurish K-pop dance covers and have now become integral parts of the hallyu wave.

The Korean Ministry of Tourism has taken measures to attract more Indian travelers. Including opening up unrestricted travel in 2022 and introducing the Let’s Go Korea Savings Plan in collaboration with Shinhan Bank. The plan encourages travelers to set up recurring deposit accounts to fund their trips. It has been successful in attracting many fashion influencers from India to explore Korea’s shopping and cosmetics offerings.

It’s all trending

The Y2K fashion trend, featuring styles from the late 90s and early-to-mid 2000s, has made a comeback in South Korea and worldwide. Signature elements like low-rise skirts, baggy pants, and varsity jackets are back in style. Instagram starlet Krutika, also known as The Mermaid Scales, has a massive following of 7.3 million. Also, perfectly embodies the Y2K hysteria with her charismatic and fashion-forward content.

K-beauty, body painting, and Korean food are also gaining popularity among Indian youth in metro cities like Pune, Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Chennai. We are watching more Korean films, appreciating their production value beyond just Oscar darlings like Train to Busan and Parasite. Words like unni, saranghae, and oppa have become part of our anime-inspired lexicon. Most importantly, we are contributing our best stylists, singers, and dancers to the Korean industry and receiving love and recognition in return.

All of this is a poetic testament to how embracing a fluid, cross-cultural identity can help us evolve, not just as artists but also as human beings.

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