KATHMANDU, Feb 9: Blonde, pretty and fair – the Korean trend – also applying to those not belonging to the fairer sex, sure did sweep through the pop culture and dominated the cool kids in Nepal.
Teenage girls and boys donning slim fit wear and spiky hairstyle became a common sight in the urban triangle – Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Dharan. Overnight, it almost became mandatory to know, or at least mouth, a couple of Korean dialects.
As the saying goes, “If you’ve got to walk the walk, might as well talk the talk.” An-yŏng-ha-se-yo soon replaced Hello or Namaste!
The “Hallyu” had hit Nepal. Coined by Chinese journalists, it refers to the Korean wave which gathered momentum in the mid-1990s and helped spread the South Korean popular culture in East Asia and other corners of the world.
One of the major inducers of this phenomenon is the Korean media, as seen in the surge of South Korean soap operas and films in Nepal, in the last decade. However, in the formative years of the Hallyu, many critics predicted the Korean wave would soon die down.
“I don’t know about food or fashion but K-movies have certainly seen a major fall in recent times,” shared Ratna Shakya, 38, who has been selling South Korean DVDs in a dimly lit stall in Maha Boudha for the past nine years. “The films all have the same storyline and looks like the kids are tired of sappy love stories,” he added.
An observation backed by the affirmative answer of nearly 21 buyers who frequented in a span of 30 minutes. So has it really subsided, the K-phenomenon, at least locally?
A fan of K-pop (Korean Pop), Mhendwo Tamang likes to defer. She dresses “normally,” no Korean-ness about her getup, and believes the decline in the sales of movies have nothing to do with the lack of interest in Korean culture.
The 20-year-old who runs DVD stalls (N. 66 and 67) in Ramailo Bazaar at Civil Mall, Sundhara, feels kids have overgrown the love stories and are now into more serious soaps and dramas.
“The mall is abuzz with kids who like to dress and look a certain way, and Korean style pops more than often. I don’t think there’s a decline,” she shared, pointing to a guy dressed in red shirt, black skinny jeans and the quintessential blonde mop of hair.
“You should talk to him, he looks like Rain (South Korean recording artist and actor),” giggled Tamang.
Proficient in Korean language, thanks to endless hours spent watching Korean films and series for the past four years and the brief stint in Korean language institute, Suraj Moktan almost feels part Korean as he likes the food and he totally digs the fashion scene.
“It suits our palette, the food, and we can carry their fashion as we look like them,” shared the 19-year-old, gesturing towards his almond shaped eyes.
Not a big fan of movies, he still follows Korean music scene, which is predominantly pop, and updates his wardrobe with Korean mentality, which many misconstrue as skinny, fair and colorful, he stressed.
The generation that grew up watching movies and listening to music, considered exotic, now has grown accustomed to it, and has moved on. But the young ones are still in love with the Kimchi bowl, so feels Sujita Gurung.
The 22-year-old student of Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts and Sciences at Whitehouse College, Baneshwor, was an avid viewer of Korean blockbusters, mostly romantic, but now feels she has outgrown that phase.
“I love their food and I still follow entertainment news from Seoul. Somehow it’s easier to relate with them, thanks to similar facial or physical attributes. But it doesn’t mean I feel less Nepali by adopting their so called ‘style.’” says Gurung.
She compares emulating the style made popular by Korean stars is as similar as wearing the ubiquitous pair of denim, an import from the West, which is worn by everyone, everywhere, anyhow!