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Bong Joon-ho, Parasite (2019)
Bong Joon-ho, Parasite (2019)

A new V&A exhibition traces Korea’s culture boom

K-pop costumes, Parasite sets, and artworks by the likes of Nam June Paik will go on display this September

It’s no secret that South Korea has emerged as a global cultural powerhouse in recent years, drawing in record-breaking audiences and acclaim with pop icons such as BTS and aespa, TV series’ such as Squid Game or Pachinko, and arthouse dramas in the vein of Parasite. Now, London’s V&A is set to document this rise, in an upcoming exhibition titled Hallyu! The Korean Wave.

Taking its name from the “hallyu” phenomenon – AKA Korean Wave – which took off across a variety of media in the late 1990s, the show will feature works from a range of creative industries, from cinema, drama, and music, to fandom, beauty, and fashion.

Highlights include a first-of-its-kind recreation of the famed bathroom set in Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning Parasite – built with the guidance of the film’s production designer, Lee Ha-jun – as well as costumes and props from the Netflix hit Squid Game. Visitors will also get a retrospective look at the evolution of contemporary K-pop style, moving through generations of artists from “Gangnam Style” singer Psy, to groups such as aespa and ATEEZ.

Meanwhile, monumental installations will showcase the work of artists Nam June Paik, Ham Kyungah, and Gwon Osang, and the country’s high fashion scene will be represented by looks from Miss Sohee, Minju Kim, Tchai Kim, and more.

As the UK’s first major exhibition of Korean culture, Hallyu! The Korean Wave will place these artworks, looks, and immersive installations – which comprise approximately 200 objects – in the broader context of South Korea’s swift development. Devastated by war in the 1950s, the country’s rise to international cultural acclaim took place over the course of just a few decades, largely credited to the 1988 Summer Olympics, held in Seoul.

Hallyu! The Korean Wave will open at the Victoria and Albert Museum on September 24, 2022.