Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 April 2020

K-Pop doubles Emirati tourism to South Korea

UAE-Korean dialogue 'not just formulaic rhetoric' says Korean minister

South Korean boy band Exo attends the world premiere of Netflix's '6 Underground' in Seoul in December. Woohae Cho / Getty
South Korean boy band Exo attends the world premiere of Netflix's '6 Underground' in Seoul in December. Woohae Cho / Getty

South Korean pop culture has helped almost double the number of visitors from the UAE to the East Asian country in the past five years.

More than two thirds of the UAE’s 17,000 visitors to South Korea last year were Emirati.

South Korean television shows filmed in the UAE, like the travel show Grandpas Over Flowers and My Little Old Boy, a reality show about the mothers of South Korean celebrities, have stirred interest in the Emirates too. An estimated 160,000 South Koreans visited the UAE in 2018.

K-Pop, Korean dramas and medical technology have led to an almost 90 per cent rise in the number of Emiratis visiting South Korea

Park Yang-woo, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism

This week, at the launch of the UAE-Korean dialogue, Park Yang-woo, South Korea’s minister of culture, sports and tourism, said the two countries have a "firm intention of decisively" raising cultural exchange.

"This is not just formulaic rhetoric," he said in an interview this week with state news agency Wam. "Exchanges in culture and arts are based on the inspiration from people-to-people exchanges.”

Young Emiratis have grown up with South Korean pop culture, which got a foothold in the UAE with the rise of K-Pop bands on YouTube in the mid-2000s. Shared cultural values of filial loyalty and demure romances meant South Korean dramas resonated with Emirati audiences.

This spurred a boom in Korean language classes and postgraduate study in South Korea among Emiratis.

Park Yang-woo, South Korean Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, says tourism to South Korea from the UAE has been spurred on by a love for K-Pop. Khushnum Bhandari for The National
Park Yang-woo, South Korean Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, says tourism to South Korea from the UAE has been spurred on by a love for K-Pop. Khushnum Bhandari for The National

Such cultural exchanges stimulate creativity and is "win-win" for both sides, said Mr Park.

"K-Pop, Korean dramas and medical technology have led to an almost 90 per cent rise in the number of Emiratis visiting South Korea over the past five years, and 11,427 Emiratis visited Korea in 2018," he said.

The minister was speaking on the 40th anniversary of UAE-South Korean bilateral ties.

Mr Park said he hoped the anniversary would serve as an opportunity for the Korea Arts and Culture Education Service or the National Museum of Korea to create partnerships and exchange programmes with cultural and artistic institutions like Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Music, media and language have helped "people understand each other’s respective ways of life and traditions, while also helping us discover the things we share in common, and have been crucial in strengthening the bilateral ties", he said.

Mr Park said there is a Korean word, "jeong", that signifies, love, compassion, community and the way people care for those they have known a long time.

"I understand that the Emirati people have a lot of jeong as well, they are kind to strangers and treat people they are close to like family," he said.

On diplomacy, Mr Park said South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s visit to the UAE in March 2018 was the start of a strategic partnership between the UAE and South Korea. The 2019 visit to South Korea of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, "laid the basis for the construction of real co-operative relations”, he said.

Updated: January 22, 2020 02:31 PM

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