Despite the current political tensions between North and South Korea, Koreans and Hallyu (Korean Wave) fans had something to smile about here in Melbourne last week. The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne hosted the eighth Korean Film Festival (KOFFIA) brought to Melbournians by the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea.
Multicultural events like KOFFIA have become a regular affair in Australia which is unsurprising as Australia has swiftly become a more culturally diverse nation according to the 2016 Australian Census. Forty nine percent of Victorians (2,910,631 people) were born overseas or had one or both parents born overseas, and six percent (1,538,835 people) spoke a language other than English at home. The census also revealed that 123,017 people in Australia identified as Korean Australians. Multicultural festivals are often held in Melbourne with other notable festivals held at Federation Square like the Thai and Japanese Cultural festivals.
With the likes of SBS television show SBS Pop Asia showcasing music from Korea and K-pop having its own news page on the SBS website, it is not hard to see that this so called ‘Korean wave’ has engulfed Australia, if not the world. Not forgetting to mention the rise of K-culture such as the viral dance ‘Gangnam Style’ by K-Pop sensation PSY, whose video has almost 3 billion views to date. In Melbourne, there are no less than thirty Korean dining spots in the CBD alone according to online dining site, Zomato. It is easy to see that Korea and the love for multiculturalism in Melbourne remains popular.
The recent KOFFIA event had a special screening of the documentary Passage to Pusan. It tells the story of an Australian mothers journey to South Korea to find the grave of her son who died in the Korean War. Haeji Ahn, Project Officer for Economic and Cultural Affairs at the Consulate-General of the Republic of Korea in Melbourne was delighted to talk about the special event. “This year we are very lucky to have Louise Evans, author of the book which inspired the film Passage to Pusan, attending the KOFFIA in Melbourne to hold a Q&A session after the screening – we are sure to get some beautiful insights from her about her journey writing the book and it’s on-screen depiction” she said.
The following audio features Dr Andrew Jackson of Korean Studies at Monash University, Jesse Blackman, a Avid Hallyu consumer and Asian Inspired Artist and lastly Dennis Christopher, an English Language Teacher based in East Asia.
KOFFIA rides on the back of the global Korean phenomenon ‘Hallyu’ or Korean wave. Similar to KOFFIA, ‘K Con’ was another Korean Cultural event that was also held last weekend in Sydney, showcasing K-pop Culture to lovers of K-pop. This event had also drawn one of K Pops biggest bands, EXO whose most popular video on Youtube has almost 156 million views and counting.
Dr Andrew David Jackson, Head of Korean Studies at Monash University and Founder of the Korean Screen Culture Conference, refers to the Hallyu Wave as a ‘soft power’ and he ponders that the success of the Korean cultural industry may be a model for other cultural industries of the world in terms of global influence.