UK’s First Major Exhibition Of Korean Culture To Open At London’s V&A Museum

The term “hallyu,” meaning Korean Wave, entered mainstream culture in the 1990s. It refers to the prominence of Korean culture in things like movies, theater, music, and fandoms. Now, the London V&A is gearing up to host its first exhibition of Korean culture in the modern world.

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The London V&A museum is preparing to hold an exhibition celebrating the dynamic popular culture of South Korea, featuring recreations of famous references such as the bathroom set in the movie “Parasite” and costumes and props from Netflix’s hit series “Squid Game.” 

The V&A is highlighting something known as “Hallyu,” which translates to Korean Wave, and refers to the presence of popular Korean culture in mainstream media. 

Rosalie Kim, the curator of the new exhibition, said that “Korea has become a leading cultural powerhouse,” when discussing the reasoning behind the new exhibit. Outfits worn by different generations of K-Pop idols will be on display, as well as famous artworks by Nam June Paik, Ham Kyungah and Gwon Osang, as well as 20 high fashion looks by Tchai Kim, Miss Sohee and Minju Kim among others.

Early examples of Korean advertising and branding will also have a spotlight in the exhibit, including an original poster from the Seol Olympics and the first ever Korean branded cosmetic line from the 1910’s.

“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.”

The exhibition overall will feature about 200 different artifacts representing four thematic sections. The entire experience opens with PSY’s viral 2012 hit single Gangham Style, with the singer’s iconic pink suit jacket on display. 

The song and dance broke records and became a global sensation when it was released in 2012, becoming the first music video to ever reach 1 billion views. The first section will highlight how South Korea evolved from being a country taken over by war, to one of intense cultural influence. 

Section two is titled “setting the scene,” and will shine a light on the success of K-drama and film through the years, ending with the iconic pink guard costumes and green tracksuits from Squid Game, which reached number 1 on Netflix in 94 territories, and became the most-watched series globally for the platform. 

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“Hallyu 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.”

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The bathroom set from Bong Joon-ho’s four-time Academy Award winning film, “Parasite,” will be recreated with help from the film’s main production designer, Lee Ha-Jun. “Parasite” and Bong Joon-ho made history in 2019 after gaining an Academy Award for best picture, best director, best original screenplay, and best international feature film.

This will be the first time that cultural objects, such as the bathroom from “Parasite,” will be recreated and put on display for the public. 

Other significant objects from Korean media that will be on display include the hats seen in the series Kingdom, as well as the grooming kit from the Handmaiden. The third section of the exhibition highlights the “global groove” of K-pop music and the history of how it came to be, and how it was able to reach listeners around the world. 

This section will also focus on the role that social media has played in bringing Korean culture to the mainstream, specifically with music. The final section is titled “inside out,” and will highlight the history of K-beauty and fashion, and its influence on global beauty standards and trends. The exhibit is currently set to open in September at London’s V&A museum.