South Korea: Rise of The New Hollywood

Kevin Six

Staff Writer

In recent years, South Korea has become a nexus in the film industry for the most original and quality films and shows, while America’s film industry has focused more on building off of their success from the past in order to secure safe profits. Starting with the groundbreaking masterpiece “Parasite” in 2019, South Korea has continued to produce exceptional entertainment that at times has dominated pop culture and which shows no signs of slowing down.

In early 2020, the film “Parasite” shattered glass ceilings with its historic Oscar win for Best Picture— the first Korean film to ever receive this accolade. This was a victory for Asian representation in the media and was the beginning of South Korea’s meteoric rise in entertainment. In addition to South Korean music, such as K-pop, growing in popularity in the United States, popular Korean films like “Parasite” represent the powerful influence that Korean media has continued to have on American pop culture

Later on during the pandemic, we were treated to some much-needed entertainment with the phenomenon of “Squid Game,” a Netflix original series. With its gritty, no-holds-barred violence, nail-biting tension, and strong social commentary, this show offers viewers an intense level of escapism. One indicator of the powerful influence “Squid Game” has had in pop culture lies in something as simple as the shoes the characters wear. After the release of “Squid Game,” classic slip-on Vans sneakers flew off the shelves and became the must-have shoes. Despite their unremarkable appearance, the shoes rose in demand as they were the same shoes worn by the ill-fated contestants in the popular series.

“Parasite’s” Oscar win and the subsequent success of other South Korean media signaled a new direction in the film industry, shifting our expectations of future films and series. As a foreign language film about the crushing nature of capitalism, “Parasite” didn’t fit the typical Oscar-winning mold. It ushered in a return to original, quality content with a healthy dose of social commentary. This type of content lies in contrast to what we have seen from American motion pictures in recent years.

Show biz in America has focused more often on sequels, prequels, and remakes with recent films and shows. The trend began shortly after the end of the Disney Renaissance, a period of massive hits, such as the “Little Mermaid” and “The Lion King.” After their Renaissance ended in the beginning of the 2000s, Disney started producing almost exclusively straight-to-video sequels of their previous successes for the bulk of their new movies. Other films and television followed suit, choosing remakes and sequels over original content. This is a safe choice for making a profit, since building on the nostalgia from the past means you already have a built-in fan base, who will pay to see it. We see this similar tactic across genres with the new “Star Wars” trilogy and upcoming live-action remakes of old animated Disney movies. While these new incarnations of classics aren’t always unwanted or badly received, they hardly yield fresh ideas in the entertainment industry.

Producing new and original content is a difficult gamble for studios to make. Film-making is a business first and foremost. However, this also brings up the importance of creating a film as art. Should entertainment be seen as an art or a business? It’s harder to allow an artist to try something new and possibly fail than to pander to the masses with a safer remake of an already beloved classic. South Korea has chosen the former strategy with much triumph and America seems stuck with the latter approach.

Recently, new South Korean Netflix shows have been making their names known, such as “All of Us Are Dead,” a fresh take on the zombie horror genre, and “Hellbound,” which tackles the serious issues of religious hysteria and the fear everyday people have about going to Hell. We certainly see no signs of stopping the train of five-star media, which is still much needed in these stressful times.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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