For the Korean diaspora in Canada, the annoying question of “where are you from” has been loaded for decades with the effects of the Korean War.
“A few years ago, whenever we used to tell people we were Korean, the question would always be ‘North or South’?” said Shin Jang, a program director at the Korean Cultural Center in Ottawa. “Now, when I tell them, they say ‘Hi,’ means ‘hello’ in Korean.”
Jung said this is a huge leap forward, driven primarily by the powerhouse rise of Korean culture around the world through K-pop, K-drama, K-food and many other trends that social media has contributed to globalization. have helped. Most notably, and most recently, with “Squid Game,” the dystopian thriller out of South Korea that’s set to become Netflix’s most-watched show worldwide.
Nancy Wang Yuen, American sociologist and author of “Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism”, says she was surprised by the popularity of “Squid Game”, simply because it was not Asia’s first “battle royale” genre material (a Referencing the Japanese cult classic from 2000 that was inspired by the hit American film series “The Hunger Games”).
“It is on its way to become Netflix’s most-watched series, which was shocking again for me. ‘Bridgeton’, which was not shocking to me,” Wang Yuen told Granthshala.
Although the representation of Asians in Hollywood TV and movies has improved, “in terms of storytelling, historically, there has been invisibility, stereotyping, a lack of power. So traditionally it has been white storytellers and through the lens of prejudice.” And in general, I think, invisibility and erasure, ”she said.
Wang Yuen states that, in some ways, the popularity and success of the “squid game”, which is reported by some American media as “seemingly out of nowhere”, is a reflection of that invisibility.
She points to the 2003 “Battle Royale” film, “Oldboy” and the Japanese series “Alice in the Borderlands” on Netflix released last year that have been wildly popular with the Asian diaspora in other parts of the world and in the north. America.
“Well, the idea that it came out of nowhere is kind of like Columbus discovered America. Something needs Western recognition before it’s worthy of notice,” Wang Yuen said.
“Korean cinema, Korean drama, Korean pop, it’s all huge in Asia, and the quality and popularity have existed for a long time,” Wang Yuen said, “for people to only think ‘Oh my gosh. Think of BTS,’ or just ‘Squid Game’ and ‘Parasite,’ (and) that somehow these are new – it’s fitting that they should be celebrated, because they’re of high quality, but in a way expressed astonishment. And the surprise seems as though it is overshadowing the fact that perhaps a large global population has already admired and enjoyed and consumed these cultural (artistic) expressions.”
Wang Yuen says that while production plays a role in the success of the value chain, it is only part of it.
“There was something compelling about the characters and premise of the show, and the fact that we are in a pandemic and it feels like we are fighting over resources. Its exact timing is critical to its popularity.”
As “squid game” dominates trends on social media, from Twitter to TikTok, the Korean cultural center’s Jung takes a very personal pride. After all, it has been his life’s work at the center: teaching Canadians about Korean culture as an extension of the South Korean embassy in Canada.
“(In both Korean and Canada), the society we live in is very competitive and everyone has their own issues. Every character in ‘Squid Game’ has such dramatic and extreme issues in life. Seeing Aur Ko Suffering brings comfort to the people. And seeing him overcome every struggle, the audience feels satisfied,” she said.
Jung and his team spend most of the day finding new strategies for representing Korea across Canada. She acknowledges that while her grassroots work – which includes presentations in schools and running local film festivals – is important, it is big blockbusters like “Squid Game” or the Oscar-winning “Parasite” that give the Korean diaspora a Helps to humanize being from. The country where missile tests are being conducted is much more than that.
“Korean culture is super diverse and dynamic,” he said, emphasizing that the “squid game” is a gateway into Korean culture for many. “From BTS to K-film to food, there are so many interesting factors and things to learn in our culture.”
Amid rising incidents of anti-Asian racism, Jung says gaining more insight into Korean culture is a powerful way to combat discrimination.
“I think the fundamental root of racism and discrimination comes from (ignorance). If people come to know about our culture, who we are and our stories, it will counter racist stereotypes,” she said. So yes, many people discriminate intentionally, but many times it is unintentional. It is based on ignorance. Knowing more about our culture will make things better.”
And while it’s her job to share Korean culture, she says it’s important for everyone in general to learn more about each other in order to become better global citizens.
“I think it is a great asset for a person to know other cultures. Not just Korean cultures, but to know more. The world is one; this is our society now. Knowing other cultures is beneficial for anyone , “He said.