REVIEW: Hallyu! The Korean Wave, Victoria and Albert Museum

This is a fascinating and bright exhibition that shines a light on the rise of South Korean culture and its impact on the world as a whole.

(c)Victoria and Albert Museum

I defy you to find a more colourful, fascinating and at times overwhelming exhibition that celebrates the way in which South Korean pop culture has risen in popularity in modern times.

This extremely detailed and researched display, beautifully highlights how much of the popular culture of South Korea has firm roots in celebrating its traditions but enhancing it to new degrees for a more modern society. Fashion, film, music and technology are all explored and interwoven into this exhibition that will leave you wanting to discover more.

Starting with a number of documentary style photographs and propaganda leaflets, visitors are first given an over view of the history of Korea from the Joseon dynasty to the 1950 Korean War which is fascinating and deserves specific attention in its own right. Visitors are then guided through the rise of film and the film makers behind it, including the boiler suits from recent success The Squid Games, sitting along side more traditional costumes to highlight the deep pride in the way pop culture in South Korea uses influences from their traditions to reach new audiences. The exhibition then moves onto music, fashion and beauty to give a comprehensive overview of just how quickly the South Korean pop culture has risen in popularity particularly in the last few years.

The huge section focusing on film and television is intriguing but I would have enjoyed seeing more clips as a lot of the film and tv shows featured I was not familiar with. The layout as well makes this section feel particularly sparse, which is a common problem that runs through the exhibition, no matter how much information featured. It feels at times a little difficult to thoroughly engage with particularly combined with loudness of the music that is a constant presence throughout and can be a distraction and make the exhibition feel overwhelming.

As always, the overall feeling is that the V&A has presented it well in terms of little touches – filled with colour and vibrancy, with a fabulous energy about it that makes it dazzling. There are plenty of effects that are dotted throughout – featuring videos, an installation of flashing K-pop light sticks as well as an opportunity for you to learn some K-Pop dance moves with a special challenge included. This exhibition has thought of everything it would be fair to say. It leaves you wanting you to immerse yourselves even more into this culture.

This is an educational exhibition but in the most fun way and I will certainly be exploring more of the film and music that has emerged from it in more depth. As seen here there is much to sit back an enjoy.

By Emma Clarendon

Hallyu! The Korean Wave is on display at the V&A until the 25th June 2023.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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