I’ve been obsessed with South Korean culture lately. 

This obsession began by accident when, during the MCO (lockdown in Malaysia), Ming showed me the intro to Mystic Pop-up Bar and asked if I wanted to watch it. I thought it was a documentary about a themed bar, so I said yes. 

A minute into the first episode, I realised I’d been duped. But it was already too late. I was hooked. 

After Mystic Pop-up Bar, Ming convinced me to watch Crash Landing on You and then It’s Okay to Not be Okay. And my initial fascination gave way to full-blown obsession.

As I read more about hallyu and began thinking about it from a media studies perspective, I became curious about the concept of soft power. 

South Korea is so open, compared to China. It has access to Western media and culture, but has managed to hold its own as well. Just think about how different Parasite (2019) is, compared to other award-winning movies. 

So, as a distraction from my actual research (on pornography in Malaysia), I’ve been reading The Birth of Korean Cool by Euny Hong.

In it, I came across this term: han, which according to Hong is an untranslatable word that’s used to describe “a culturally specific, ultra-distilled form of rage”. 

For some reason, I found the idea of this rage-as-result-of-suffering that’s passed down through generations inspirational. Apparently, it’s how South Korea has developed so quickly in the last 50 years.

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