Hallyu! The Korean Wave

24 September 2022 to 25 June 2023 Victoria Albert Museum

Image: @Courtesy of Jason Decrow, Invision, AP, Shutterstock
On 24th September the V&A opens the landmark exhibition Hallyu! The Korean Wave – the first exhibition of its kind to celebrate the colourful and dynamic popular culture of South Korea, following its early origins to its place on the global stage today.

From K-pop costumes and a newly revealed interactive K-pop dance challenge to K-drama and cinema props and posters, alongside photography, sculpture, fashion, video and pop culture ephemera, the exhibition invites visitors to delve into the phenomenon known as ‘hallyu’ – meaning ‘Korean Wave’. Hallyu rose to prominence in the late 1990s, rippling across Asia before reaching all corners of the world and challenging the currents of global pop culture today.

Hallyu! The Korean Wave explores the makings of the Korean Wave through cinema, drama, music and fandoms, and underlines its cultural impact on the beauty and fashion industries. The exhibition features around 200 objects across four thematic sections – including some loans never seen in the UK before – alongside pop culture ephemera and digital displays.  Highlights include an immersive re-creation of Parasite’s bathroom set, and an array of iconic costumes and props seen in K-drama, film and music – including from hit Netflix series Squid Game, and outfits worn by different generations of K-pop idols, from PSY, to aespa and ATEEZ. In the exhibition, hallyu will also be used as a gateway to explore traditional and contemporary Korean culture by connecting historic objects with popular culture and socio-political events.

A new highlight is an interactive K-pop dance challenge created in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture, inviting visitors to try their hand at K-pop choreography for PSY’s ‘That That’, co-written and co-produced with SUGA from BTS.

Rosalie Kim, curator of Hallyu! The Korean Wave said: “South Korea has captivated the world over with hallyu, its vibrant and creative popular culture, which has transformed the country’s image from one devastated by the Korean War to that of a leading cultural powerhouse in the era of social media and digital culture today. This phenomenon has been amplified by tech-savvy and socially conscious global fanbases, further raising the profile and relevance of hallyu around the world, and we’re delighted to be bringing its energy and dynamism to the V&A this autumn in the first exhibition of its kind.”

The exhibition is split into different sections including K-pop and its fans, television drama and cinema, fashion and beauty and opens with the 2012 hit single, “Gangnam Style”, with the iconic pink suit jacket on display.

Section one - ‘From Rubble to Smartphones’, provides historical context to the meteoric rise of hallyu, highlighting how – within living memory – South Korea rapidly evolved from a country ravaged by war in the late 1950s to a leading cultural powerhouse by the early 2000s.

Section two - ‘Spotlighting K-drama and Cinema’ –focuses on the remarkable success of K-drama and film, charting in turn their rise in popularity from the late 1990s to the present day, through multimedia, installations, posters, props and costumes.

Section three - ‘Sounding K-pop and Fandoms’, the third section, delves into the explosion of K-pop music around the world, as well as underlining the crucial roles social media and fandoms play in increasing their reach.

Section four - ‘Making K-beauty and Fashion’, presents K-beauty and fashion, underlining their origin whilst showcasing their innovative and experimental approach that led to new aesthetic standards both inside and outside of Korea.

Further Information: Hallyu! The Korean Wave - Exhibition at South Kensington · V&A (vam.ac.uk)