The V&A celebrates Hallyu – The Korean Wave – with a new major exhibition

Hallyu! The Korean Wave will be the first exhibition of its kind to celebrate the South Korean popular culture.


The V&A invites visitors to ride the ‘Korean Wave’ with their new landmark exhibition, Hallyu! The Korean Wave.

Opening in September 2022, this will be the first exhibition of its kind to celebrate the polyhedric and dynamic culture of South Korea. The exhibition will guide visitors to delve into the phenomenon known as ‘Hallyu’ – meaning ‘Korean Wave’ – from its prominence in the late 1990s to take over the global stage and pop culture today.

In the four sections of the exhibitions, Hallyu! The Korean Wave will explore what started and became part of the Korean Wave through cinema, drama, music and fandoms, beauty and fashion. The exhibition will open with an iconic example of Hallyu, PSY’s viral 2012 hit single ‘Gangnam Style’. The song and its quirky dance moves were an overnight sensation, and it became the first music video to reach 1 billion views on YouTube – currently, the music video has 4.4 billion views.

PSY performs Gangnam Style, on TODAY, 2012, New York, USA. Courtesy of Jason Decrow, Invision, AP, Shutterstock

Section one, ‘From Rubble to Smartphones’, will provide historical context to the meteoric rise of Hallyu, highlighting how – within living memory – South Korea rapidly evolved from a country ravaged by war in the late 1950s to a leading cultural powerhouse by the early 2000s. Korea’s modern history will be represented and explored in the exhibition through photography, posters and archive materials, alongside objects ranging from Olympics posters to early examples of electronics – including the world’s first commercial MP3 player – and a monumental 1986 video sculpture by artist Nam June Paik, featuring 33 TV monitors.

Section two – ‘Setting the Scene’ – will focus on the remarkable success of K-drama and film, charting in turn their rise in popularity from the late 1990s to the present day, through multimedia, installations, posters, storyboards, props and costumes. In this section, visitors will be able to see Squid Game’s iconic costumes and a recreation of the bathroom set from Bong Joon-Ho’s Oscar-winning film Parasite. This section will also showcase webtoons as a source of inspiration for many K-dramas.

Squid Game
A Netflix Original Series. Squid Game Artwork © 2021 Netflix. All Rights Reserved

‘Global Groove’, the third section, will delve into the explosion of K-Pop music around the world, as well as underlining the crucial roles social media and fandoms play in increasing their reach. Highlights will include a monumental three-metre-high sculpture of G-Dragon by Gwon Osang, whilst costumes on display will include aespa’s original iridescent outfits from the music video ‘Next Level’, and British punk fashion-inspired ensembles worn by four members of ATEEZ in the music video ‘Firework’.

Painted sculpture “Untitled G-Dragon, A Space of No Name” by Gwon Osang © Courtesy Gwon Osang

The final section in Hallyu!, titled ‘Inside Out’, will present K-beauty and fashion, underlining their origin whilst showcasing their innovative and experimental approach that led to new aesthetic standards both inside and outside Korea. It will also highlight how product placement in K-dramas and endorsements from K-Pop idols have amplified the international profile of K-beauty and fashion.

Moon Jar Dress, Blue by Minju Kim. Seoul, 2021 © Minju Kim, Photo Sangmi An, Model Leehyun Kim

The exhibition will feature around 200 objects across four thematic sections – including some loans never seen in the UK before – alongside pop culture ephemera and digital displays, including around 20 high fashion looks by Tchai Kim, Miss Sohee and Minju Kim among others; as well as early examples of advertising and branding, including an original poster from the Seoul Olympics, and the first Korean branded cosmetic from the 1910s. In the exhibition, Hallyu will also be used as a gateway to explore traditional and contemporary Korean culture by connecting historic objects with popular culture and socio-political events.

Rosalie Kim, curator of Hallyu! The Korean Wave, said: “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. This phenomenon 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.”

Hallyu! The Korean Wave will open on 24 September 2022 and run until 25 June 2023. Tickets are available here.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.