Sobering Words from a Global Entertainment Player
Park Jin-young, the singer and dancer-turned entertainment entrepreneur responsible for creating the international phenomenon that is Rain, on Thursday said the Korean Wave will have to be abandoned for true global success. In a lecture at Yonsei University, Park said, “You must be prepared to give up the Korean Wave to achieve greater success on the global stage. In the U.S. market, the home to mainstream music, drama and movies, who will listen to a Korean singer if all he or she does is shout about how great Korea is? It’s not a smart move to flog products emblazoned with a country’s flag.”
After opening his own entertainment company at the age of 27, Park went to the U.S. in 2003 and spent every day going round 20 different music companies. His efforts paid off when he succeeded in getting one of his songs featured on the album of a popular rap artist. After Rain, he brought the Korean singer Min to the U.S. and picked out singing sensation Nichkhun Horvejkul, who is seen as Thailand’s answer of Rain. The reason Harvard University and other educational institutions rush to invite Park to lecture is because they value the way he took on the challenge of succeeding on the global stage as well as his accomplishments.
Park has always felt uneasy about having his activities linked to the Korean Wave. He said he is neither a “patriot” nor a “messenger of the Korean Wave.” He warned, “There are too many people making a living off nationalism in Korea. The ‘Korean Wave’ ended up becoming ‘Korea is Great’, and that’s why we’re seeing an anti-Korean Wave trend overseas.” He sighed in despair when he cited an instance where Korean fans became furious after they learned about Park’s plan to dress Rain in Chinese costume and incorporate kung fu moves into his dance routine at a concert in China. He is frustrated by the closed-mindedness of Korean society, which tries to view even pop culture through the narrow lens of nationalism.
Park said, “You can become a global success if you do something well, whether it is Korean or not. We still lack diversity, yet are strong in uniformity.” His comments are bold and provocative. That’s why they have stirred up heated controversy. But Korean society has matured enough to be able to listen to the candid advice of such unconventional figures and pioneers.
Park’s advice is to throw away the narrow view of things through Korea’s eyes and to open our eyes wider. Those words apply not only to pop culture, but also to education, the economy, politics and other areas of our society. Korea’s so-called leaders, who are so far from global standards and spend their days fighting amongst themselves, can learn a thing or two from this young and ambitious entrepreneur who’s striving to become the world’s best and Asia’s no. 1.