When a music video produced by a locally familiar but internationally obscure figure from Gangnam, Seoul, becomes a global craze – now the most-watched YouTube video in history with more than 800 million views – this tells us something about the modern South Korea.
‘Gangnam Style’ is riding a Korean wave of popular culture which includes K-Pop, Korean TV dramas, Korean movies, and Korean cuisine. The meteoric rise of the song by PSY, aka Park Jae-Sang, can largely be attributed to his confidence and creativity. As well as being a performer, PSY is a songwriter, record producer and the brains behind the hit song’s marketing strategy. This creativity and self-belief are central to the Korean psyche. PSY is fast becoming one of Korea’s most successful exports, joining corporates such as Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Kia Motors and POSCO as global brands and inspiration for others.
Korea’s remarkable transformation, since the Korean War ended in 1953, into an economic and political powerhouse has been referred to as the ‘Miracle on the Han River’. This trajectory looks set to continue, with a recent wealth report forecasting that Korea will be the 4th most affluent country in the world by 2050.
The Australian Government’s new White Paper Australia in the Asian Century identifies Korea as one of five key regional nations for Australia. Developing a comprehensive country strategy for Korea, as proposed by the White Paper, must include an understanding of Korea’s economic transformation and its national identity, appreciation of our robust bilateral relationship, and knowledge of the key opportunities and strategic challenges in the Australia- Korea corridor.