The Philippine Seoul (Illustrado)

(This article was published in Illustrado Magazine, May 2011 issue)

Is the Philippines turning into a Little Korea Town?

It all started with kimchi. Then the hallyu, or better known as Korean wave, washed up on Philippine shores, along with the popular hit song “Nobody” by the all-girl music group, the Wonder Girls. Since the introduction of Korean pop (Kpop) in the country, there has been a steady stream of all things Korean into the Filipino culture—from soap operas to music groups, and even cosmetics and grocery items. Nowadays, it is not unusual to bump into a Korean national in any part of the country, or have a Korean neighbor.

The spread of South Korean culture started in China in 1999-2000, before anywhere else in the world. According to Kring Elenzano, one of the founding members of Cassiopeia Philippines and the Philippine Kpop Committee, Inc., “Korean pop invasion in the country is really a phenomenon. I personally feel like it was long overdue. Kpop stars have been big in neighboring countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan since around 2003.”

The Philippines Kpop Committee, Inc. is the first, biggest, and only Kpop organization in the country, which was put up in 2009. Elenzano shares, “We saw the strength of the fandom and Kpop was really becoming mainstream and we felt the need to have an organization what would somehow represent the fans and be involved in activities of all the fan clubs.” The group is in partnership with the United Korean Community Organization, Korean Cultural Center of the Korean Embassy, Korean Students Association, and is recognized by pretty much all the record labels that distribute Kpop albums. The group also gives back to Gawad Kalinga, the biggest non-profit organization in the country that promotes nation building. Elenzano revealed that, “Last December, the local Pinoy Kpop community raised half a million, which will be used to build houses in Bantayan Island, Cebu.”

It helped that the Philippines was familiar with one of the members of the Wonder Girls, which features former local TV personality Sandara Park. Kpop ruled the airwaves then. Local television was not far behind as it aired Korean telenovelas that were all the rage. Who can forget Coffee Prince, Boys Over Flowers, Lovers in Paris, or Autumn in My Heart?

<Read the rest of the article in Illustrado>