The entire implementation of the Korean Wave, or simply known as K-Wave or Hallyu, is orchestrated well in a way that it is no longer foreign in the enlightenment of youths. This has greatly blossomed into the eminence of becoming the largest global sensation and satisfactorily setting as paramount of the cultural lifestyle in this current progressing generation.
The pinnacle point near the mid-1990s to 2000s, the excellence of K-Wave since then was often exemplary, encompassed with several dedicated objectives. Since the turn of the 21st century, South Korea has been established as the world’s leading exporter of famous culture and tourism, both of which have become the crucial components for the country’s flourishing economical status. The extravagance was started as a mere trendsetter, starting with the rise of the compelling Gangnam Style, a cultural reset to the Korean Pop music genre, or simply abbreviated as KPOP, performed by the incredible PSY.
By hitting the jackpot, this well-composed song with a ludicrously catchy beat and the inevitable horse-riding choreography has tremendously become KPOP’s first-ever music video to achieve 1 billion views on the YouTube platform. In addition, this vibrating hype went indefinitely wild later on with Korea’s most profitable drama, ‘Moon Embracing the Sun’, which was successfully broadcasted to most ASEAN countries in 2012. Appreciating the bright side of the Hallyu effect, this contributed to 0.2% of Korea’s GDP in 2004, amounting to approximately USD 1.87 billion.
More recently in 2019, Hallyu boosted the Korean economy by an estimated USD 12.3 billion (Roll, 2021). Although the burgeoning popularity of KPOP may appear to be a passing trend, the rise of the genre has catapulted South Korea into a global scale and brought closure to a broader cultural resonance, and has immensely impacted the ASEAN countries in many ways possible. Consequently, this astonishing KPOP movement has managed to bring synergy in people through a shared interest in music and cultural diversity.
However, the disparity between the two cultures of both ASEAN countries and Korea is becoming absolutely apparent day by day. The influence of K-Wave started to increase greatly, being spotlighted throughout the years, this resulted in widening the societal gap that made the public become too focused on the Korean trend, outcasting the other ASEAN cultures hidden under the shadows. This causes an observable imbalance in both societies, thus, depreciating the opportunity for further exchanging of cultural understandings.
Instead of acknowledging the beauty of the ASEAN cultures through food and tourism, there are many other extraordinary aspects that were left undiscovered by the Koreans on the wondrous colors and the tranquility of the ASEAN cultures. The youths believed that the Koreans can learn more about the distinctive aspects of ASEAN cultures from the beauty of the student exchange programs, participation of youths in sports and games, inauguration of language mastery, the involvement of multi-nationality artists in mainstream bands, the introduction of cultures in Korean dramas, films, and advertisement.
The Koreans also can catch a glimpse of insight about the ASEAN culture through music compositions and lyrics writing. With both direct and indirect introductions, the Koreans are able to mutually understand the social backgrounds and oriental lifestyles practiced among the ASEAN communities. In order to make the impossible possible, we must allow more participation of the youths in crafting the blueprint to unite people of different social backgrounds and promote love and respect towards one another.
“Why involve such inexperienced individuals in a massive international future planning?”, you may question.
Putting that thought aside, here’s a more important concern to ponder: Building an everlasting partnership between ASEAN and Korea isn’t something that can be done in a day, it takes years of hard work, trust, and investment from the current community to culminate the blueprint. However, imagine one day in the next 15 years, the pinnacle point where the present youth has stepped up and replaced the current workforce contributors as future leaders.
Prior to unenlightenment and vital life-skills of these youths, results in witnessing all the blood, sweat and tears, fall apart upon your eyes due to the unprepared descendants to take over it in the near future. Exactly, painful isn’t it? Hence, this portrays the significance and the need for youths’ involvement in more international relations in the immediate future, including sustaining our ASEAN-Korea partnership.
Believe it or not, youths these days are actually very enthusiastic to participate in events that empower social and economic development between nations. The purity and sincerity of them to hope for the betterment of the countries’ partnership itself is solely the reason to allow more involvement of youths.
According to “Mutual Perceptions of ASEAN and Korean Youth” on the perception of the Future of ASEAN and Korea, clearly shows that Korean youth perceive the future of the ASEAN-Korea relations as highly positive where the majority of the students (64.2%) responded positively while only 2.4% responded negatively to the question “How do you think about the future of the ASEAN-Korea relations?”.
Besides, youth should be part of the ASEAN-Korea partnership success as it prepares them to be mentally mature, knowledgeable, and respectful human being through those firsthand experiences. Along the journey, young people would understand the proper way to deal with diplomatic intersections professionally between ASEAN and Korea.
Moreover, the ability of youths to brainstorm ideas for strengthening the partnership which can accommodate both traditional and modern perceptions from the different generation communities would be better, whether it’s from the aspect of preference, acceptability, or creativity. Nevertheless, youths alone would need financial and guidance aids from larger scaled companies and associations in order to make all those wonderful schemes come true.
INITIATIVE 1: STUDENT EXCHANGE PROGRAMS
Youths, in today’s world, are valuable assets to one’s nation, they are students to hold the boundless energy and fervor, essential for the country’s overall progress. Youth is a pivotal era in one’s growth, and their minds are capable of deciding dissonant issues into fruition, a period of time when everything is in flux. With these remarkable ideas in their possession, the youths can suggest hosting more student exchange programs which can further narrow the gap between the societal understandings of the ASEAN communities and the Koreans.
Students depict a higher degree of acceptance for cultural diversity, awareness, and mutual understanding. This also increases their cultural capital that not just on the surface, but also the depth of it that cannot be demonstrated through tourism initiatives. These astounding programs aid in developing awareness in group dynamics, personal sensitivity towards others, and also enhancing the maturity and social poise that were charged by the need to face challenges.
In a simple analogy, when students from Korea are given the chance to partake in the student exchange programs to any ASEAN country for education purposes, the students will be welcomed by their host family. This can build trust and life-long relationships, therefore bringing harmony and creating peace together. Besides grasping the opportunity to experience the new learning environment of that particular
ASEAN country, the students could also learn about the cultural and sociological backgrounds simultaneously, killing two birds with one stone. The exchange programs are great initiatives to promote assurance of the safety and security of the host countries, free from various forms of social discrimination, and to maintain an excellent social reputation globally.
In addition, with the support of the government and the cooperation from the youths, we can widen this golden opportunity together for both school and university students. In the long term, completing the exchange program can successfully render higher personal flexibility, including the capacity for youths to compromise, focus, and persevere in the face of adversity.
INITIATIVE 2: SPORTS AND GAMES
You have heard of Commonwealth, SEA Games, and the Olympics. Nevertheless, allow the youths to present to you the all-new-never-heard-before annual “Inter ASEAN-KOREA Games’’ blueprint. Conventional sports, folk games, and martial arts are precious to all countries as these define a country’s identity. Dejectedly, these games were not included in those major international sports events. Hence, resulting countries such as Korea find well-known traditional games in ASEAN outlandish.
For example, Patintero from the Philippines, O An Quan from Vietnam, Kyway Pyit from Myanmar, Gasing from Malaysia, and the list goes on. Just like that, an idea to bring those strayed games together into one platform to not only introduce but also share their traditional essence with other countries. This commencement also guarantees the existence of those traditions to live on before being consigned to oblivion. For example, to participate, Koreans would have to learn ASEAN’s games that simultaneously induce them to learn the ASEAN culture.
More importantly, sports unite people. Sports have the ability to blur geographical and racial boundaries to bring people together with their shared interests and a common passion. Once the Inter ASEAN-KOREA Games is introduced with a golden rule where each involved country will have the chance to become the host country annually, Koreans would get the opportunity to stay in the host country to gradually improve their perceptions of all ASEAN countries every year.
It is necessary and significant for the formation of institutional foundations for people-to-people exchange to increase the support for ASEAN-Korea relations. This is because based on a questionnaire conducted on Koreans’ impression of ASEAN, many responses showed negativity such as “poor”, “poverty”, “labor”, “developing country” and so many more. These keywords showed that ASEAN is still perceived as relatively poor and an unpleasant country.
Due to the insufficient media publicity of ASEAN in Korea, permitting Korea’s representatives to stay in ASEAN countries for the game will definitely expand their provision of safety, public order, sanitization, culture, locally-produced products, services, and the hidden beauty of those respective countries, providing more accurate information on the reality of ASEAN. Then, applying the “Chain Reaction Theory”, those Korean representatives would promote positive influence and knowledge back to their home ground. In the end, this self-sustaining sequence will allow all Koreans to then attain a better understanding and trust in ASEAN.
INITIATIVE 3: LANGUAGE MASTERY
Youths are not just the leaders of tomorrow, but also the partners of today, and they are the catalysts in bridging the gap between the Korean and ASEAN communities. They should act now to pursue a developmental change, and it is undoubtedly that language is indeed vital to the social fabric of humankind. Culture and language are two peas in a pod, merely intertwined.
To understand a culture is to comprehend the language first, as both reflect one another. The youths suggest that the Koreans should grasp the opportunity to learn a certain language from the ASEAN countries for better and proper communication. This helps to eradicate further misunderstandings that could butcher the people-to-people bond. Sustainable communication for mutualistic understanding is essential in promoting love and respect within people.
Various languages of ASEAN nations differ so greatly because they evolve independently in the communities where they are spoken, and spasmodically, they become the representation of the people’s culture. We are aware that the Koreans practiced honorifics to indicate and recognize their hierarchical social status concerning the age, gender, degree of intimacy, and speech act situation in conversation. This golden rule is utilized as humble forms to make themselves lower.
On the contrary, the ASEAN communities value familial ties and social order, and the Chinese language that is commonly practiced by the ASEAN people has a kinship system that maintains a separate designation for most people’s kin according to their generation, lineage, relative age, and gender. Furthermore, language benefits international relations, in a way that it values future partnership and international diplomatic relationships, for instance, the Model United Nations Conference. This is an excellent academic simulation for youths, or professionally known as international delegates from South Korea and the ASEAN countries to attempt and solve global issues with the policies and perspectives of their assigned country.
This opens the opportunity wide ajar for youths to truly understand the nature of debating and public speaking, thus can get to know each delegate better. Correspondingly, the youths think that we should include the ‘mastering language’ scheme in the education system, such as the ASEAN-Korean tutoring classes for languages.
Besides, the entertainment industry provides a substantial medium in acquiring and learning languages, for instance, through the multilingual lyrics writing in music, so as through dramas and cinematic films productions. Language mastery is the true form of tranquility, where one gets to comprehend the respective cultures with ease, as language unites us all through proper channels in understanding one another closer and better.
INITIATIVE 4: INVOLVEMENT OF MULTI-NATIONALITY ARTISTS IN BANDS
As the KPOP industry evolves around adolescents, ASEAN youths could propose for more ASEAN faces to be shown in the KPOP world. We have seen success via the participation of eminent Thailand idols such as Lalisa Manoban (Blackpink), Nickhun (2PM), and Bambam (GOT7). They have paved the way to foster interest in their Korean fans to explore the beauty of Thailand, allowing them to feel less foreign when encountering their culture and people.
The cultural exchange from Thailand to Korea in this case permits in-depth understanding and acceptance. Thus, creating a harmonious relationship between Thailand and Korea. On that note, the involvement of more muti-nationalities from ASEAN into KPOP groups can deplete intercultural discrimination and promote togetherness between ASEAN and Korea. Not only that, this provides opportunities for other ASEAN potential artists to experience the dreamlike KPOP sensation.
The collaboration induces economical growth, balanced diplomatic advantages, and social positivity more than harm. However, even if disagreements arise from the public due to the firsthand experiencing changes as such, these cases can be brought up to the table to be discussed diplomatically and respectfully. Inducing delicate conversational topics like these into the public shows maturity in the people’s thought process and it is a sign of growth.
Change is never easy, but as we are moving forward for a more diverse interaction and partnership, the change is mandatory. As long as the ambitious youths stand hand in hand to fight for a brighter future with limitless opportunities for everyone, nothing is unsolvable. For that, we youths can promote a better mutual understanding and respect for future partnership between ASEAN and Korea.
INITIATIVE 5: DRAMA AND FILM PRODUCTION, AND ADVERTISEMENT
Alternatively, it is no stranger that K-dramas and Korean shows also dominate as one of the people’s top picks in the entertainment industry. Due to the close engagement of Koreans with their locally-produced dramas and reality shows, ASEAN youths could provide suggestions and initiatives to slip in their respective country’s tourist sites, their latest highly famous superstars who have a large Korean fanbase, and goods into those shows.
One good example would be the featuring of “Kopiko candy”, an Indonesian brand of coffee confectioneries originally produced in Indonesia by Mayora Indah in the renowned Korean television series titled “Vincenzo” starring actor Song Joong Ki, actress Jeon Yeo Been, and idol Ok Taecyeon from KPOP boyband, 2PM. Immediately after that, the share price of Mayora Indah was boosted.
This shows how great of an impact on Koreans in attaining knowledge on ASEAN just by a simple initiative shown before their eyes. Vice versa, programs with well-known Korean celebrities visiting ASEAN countries are another essential aspect in developing a favorable perception of ASEAN. Simultaneously, this economic cooperation and mutual exchange between ASEAN and Korea symbolize the vision “People-centered community of peace and prosperity”, adopted by the 2019 ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit held in Busan.
Although youths are still incapable to invest or sponsor large companies, what youths can do is to take their suggestions of idols, food companies, brands, and more to the internet, creating a trend to grab the attention of potential agencies to deliver the majorities’ heart desires. For that matter, we youth can assure that this plan would be highly effective in raising awareness of ASEAN to Koreans, referring to the example demonstrated by Thailand, Vietnam, and Lao PDR.
These countries had managed to expose their image greatly through the Korean media which resulted to be the topmost favorite country in ASEAN by Korean youths. For instance, particularly the TV show <Youth Over Flower> which broadcasted a trip to Lao PDR possessed a positive effect on the result.
INITIATIVE 6: MUSIC GENRE AND TASTE
For the past few years, KPOP has been a global phenomenon. KPOP has impacted greatly on ASEAN and all around the world with its captivating music videos and amiable idols. People, especially the younger generations would listen to songs like “Money” by Lisa from Blackpink and “Butter” by Bangtan Sonyeondan (BTS) on repeat via Spotify, Youtube, radio stations and so many other available platforms. Because of that, listeners would naturally tender towards acquiring the knowledge of their favorite idols’ personal background, homeland, and culture, thus leading people in ASEAN to know more about Koreans as compared to Koreans towards the ASEAN culture which resulted in the current concerned imbalance.
Inspired by the power of music to positively influence others, we youths would like to take this opportunity to implement the same mechanism, but with a twist of the ASEAN culture instead. As the current youths would be the future leaders tomorrow, and youths are the majority population who are engaged in modern music, it would be a brilliant idea for the ASEAN youths to produce music that addresses struggles of youths themselves face in their everyday lives.
This is because regardless of where they are born, they share common issues such as suicidal thoughts, stress from societies’ beauty standard, anxiety, depression, puppy love stories, acceptance in the community, so on and so forth, placing them onto the same bandwagon and common ground, instilling them to be relatable from one youth to another. So, just like how KPOP idols are usually heavily involved by young people, ASEAN youths should also adapt to the same concept, involving their own countries’ young idols as youths tend to compose based on their own ideologies.
In addition to that, referring to Korean music videos, ASEAN youths could also apply easy yet addictive choreography which potentially provides sensational and diverse involvement from all walks of life. In the present day, this can be accomplished via TikTok challenges from the idols themselves which are suitable for all. The end goal to this is to establish an inclusive community of youths from ASEAN and Korea with healthy relationships and to acknowledge the presence of each other with harmony.
HOW YOUTH CAN PROMOTE?
Social media these days has become the most influential and important virtual space to digitally generate brand awareness, increase visibility, build relationships so as to engage with mundanes from afar in a safe environment. Based on a survey “Where do Korean youths usually get their information about ASEAN?”, the majority responded “Internet and social media” at 36.8% and “Broadcasting (TV/Radio)” at 25.4%.
This validates that such a method of access is the main route and factor which contributes to the positive impression of ASEAN. With that information provided, youths from ASEAN and Korea should actively take advantage of this platform to educate and promote cultural exchange, paid partnership, strategic monetization, and institutionalizing ambassadorships in the most creative ways possible to suit the preferences of all generations namely via TikTok, Instagram, Reddit, Quora, and Facebook.
To illustrate, youths can establish an ASEAN-Korea organization that annually assembles representatives from each ASEAN-Korea country to participate in a summit to discuss issues that are potentially detrimental to the ASEAN-Korea partnership and their role in strengthening the relationship. Moreover, events that include the involvement of the ASEAN and Korean public such as public speaking, debating, forum competitions, and social entrepreneurship programs should be organized more often and publicized on the social media platforms by youths.
This encourages more interaction between the ASEAN-Korea youths, in return growing to become more brilliant in communicating with one another despite the language barrier. Then, this applaudable progress can be portrayed in the Korean media to convince and persuade the Koreans that having a good relationship with ASEAN brings a myriad of benefits to them and their future.
Proactiveness as such shown by the youths is capable of building a matured and deferential community effectively. Accurate information on ASEAN displayed in social media by the youths can spread very quickly right at the end of everyone’s fingertips. We believe that the increased accumulation and exposure of the ASEAN image in the Korean media could bring in more dynamism of economic cooperation and provide more opportunities for Koreans to understand better about ASEAN.
To summarize, a Hindu guru, Paramahansa Yogananda once quoted that, “A spine is the highway of the infinite’’. Here, the youths are the backbone in restructuring today’s society. The youths are truly vibrant, inquisitive, and strong-willing. The ability of a nation to provide them with adequate opportunities to work and bloom can establish a solid foundation for its own growth. The youths, who are the future leaders of our countries hold the exquisite key to restore peace and benevolence are viewing ASEAN-Korea relationships as an evolving partnership, despite the prejudices and misunderstandings that will be needed to overcome.
In a nutshell, the youths suggested that the student exchange programs are indeed essential in dwindling the gap of understanding between the ASEAN and Koreans. With the epiphany from the quote ‘‘sports unite all’’, the youths also claimed that the annual ‘Inter ASEAN-KOREA Games’ blueprint can be the benefactor to exhibit each countries’ specialties in traditional games and martial arts.
Through this initiative, it can appreciate and commemorate the true culture of each community. Language, conversely, described as a formal system is used to express thoughts, ideas, and emotions from one person to another which can be assuredly important as language signifies culture. The exposure to different languages can be conducted through lecture classes or just by practicing it in everyday life.
Moreover, the youths encourage more involvement of ASEAN faces shown in the KPOP music industry. We had observed the prominent success in current KPOP artists that originated from the ASEAN countries, paving their excellence in soaring their passion for music. Through this, we all could embrace the acceptance and provide sustainable opportunities to promote more cultural backgrounds in the music industry.
The frequent exposure of cultures in dramas and films, involvement of cultural elements in music composition and lyrics writing can bring closure in people. The ability of youths should not be underestimated. They uphold the power that can change the present and the future of one’s nation. Therefore, more youths should acknowledge their significance to partake in building a sustainable and future-oriented ASEAN-Korea partnership. Together, we shall act with haste to succumb the turmoil of imbalance between ASEAN and Korean communities.
In the end, let’s ask ourselves, have we done enough in shaping the youth to promote mutual understanding? More importantly, is it possible to have all ASEAN countries be on the same page to agree on full cooperation towards these initiatives? Now, that’s another interesting subject to be discussed.
By: Viccentia Pachamuthu
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