The Korean wave that started to get noticed in the late 1990 was hardly an accidental trend. In 1994 the South Korean minister for Culture set out to encourage a cultural expansion, shifting emphasis away from the manufacturing industry that was no longer as successful as hoped. Part of the reason for encouraging cultural development was simply a desire for financial success and commercial expansion; but removing the restriction on Japanese culture imports (which occurred in 1998) led some to fear that Korean culture would be overcome with this foreign influence. No wanting to be lost beneath the culture of their former rulers the South Korean Cultural Minister asked for substantial budget increases to further cultural development.

South Korea’s cultural development consisted of seeking out and training any young individuals who appeared to have talent. Teenagers, or sometimes even children aged nine to ten, thought to have potential were housed together and given singing, performance and chorography classes. Attention was paid to specifically grooming them for success in foreign markets. Estimates have 10% of these individuals obtaining a record deal and career in the music/entertainment industry.

It was in the year 2000 that the Korean boy band H.O.T. performed outside of their own country. Already highly successful back home this was the first of many successful South Korean Music acts. The influx of music and TV was so extreme that countries such as China deliberatly restricted the amount of Korean media shown to Chinese audiences.

Though H.O.T. disbanded soon after this a number of Korean Pop music acts (K-POP) quickly grew popular overseas. Some countries responded by restricting or ban music and TV programmes outright. But by the year 2011 K-pop videos on YouTube had surpassed the one billion mark. Even this figure seemed small a year later when PSY’s Gangnum style song passed the one billion mark and because the most viewed YouTube clip in history.


korean shopping

Of course the attraction of shopping in any foreign culture is the completely different range of items. It’s a bonus if the items are cheap too.

Korean beauty products are big. They have been a steady part of Western shopping for a while, so much so that we tend to not notice that several of the beauty products we use actually are from Korea. Many creams for under the eye are both effective for short term skin care, reducing puffiness and dark circles, but also effective for long term care by including strong Sun protection.

South Korea has popularized the sheet mask. These tighten facial skin. Many are designed for skin around the jawline.

Blackheads affect a lot of individuals. Korean has many effective remedies for this, using anything from volcanic clay to mildly acidic compounds. These only require occasional use for good results.

BB creams- An all in one Blemish Balm or Beauty Balm for the skin. Many people use this as an alternative to foundation, but the cream contains many moisturisers, antioxidants and anti-aging ingredients. No two are alike, but there’s always one to suit every individual. CC cream is another name for the same range of products.

Look for brands: Etrude house, TonyMoly, A’Pieu, Nature republic, Rachel K.

A bonus is the Korean fondness for cute things. Some makeup supplies come in bottles shaped like parrots, peaches or eggs. You’ll want to keep the container.

The only caution is not to use products that contain lead. Restrictions are different in many Asian countries, but no imported products should contain any significant amounts of lead.