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Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Kia, K-pop, Korean movies and series… For a country of approximately 50 million inhabitants, which started from the back seats some 70 years ago, an unprecedented soft power. It’s about the concept of spreading power through attractiveness, not pressure. Let me explain with an example. You might be staunch opponents of the USA, but most computers run on Microsoft Windows or macOS. You turn on Facebook or Twitter and by evening, you’ll Google which Hollywood blockbuster to end your day with. Platform? Netflix, AppleTV+, Disney+, Amazon Prime, HBO Max. Wide selection. But really? And what universe will it end up being? Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar…? Or will you read a comic? DC? And where will you buy it? From Amazon? Do you know the song “Amerika” by Rammstein?

We’re all living in Amerika.
Amerika ist wunderbar.
We’re all living in Amerika,
Amerika, Amerika.

Say what you want, but for many, life is thus more pleasant, someone might even use the word bearable. Finally, the Latin saying “panem et circenses” (bread and circuses) will apply for the entire duration of human existence. People want to have fun, and the list of brands above is just an example of what you might associate with America as well. With nice things.

In less than three generations, South Korea has managed something similar, albeit on a smaller scale, but it’s still a small country. Nevertheless, you drive to work in a Hyundai or Kia, play K-pop on the radio, in the evening after work, you turn on an LG washing machine, and you binge-watch Squid Game on a new Samsung TV. How many times already?

Not only the above, but South Korea exports them all over the world today, and in some respects, even sets fashion trends. For a country of their size, tremendous success blurred by the fact that not everyone associates their brands with them. Yet.

Moreover, there is also a darker side. Social pressure to achieve maximum performance ideally in everything you do has led in South Korea to an interesting phenomenon where perfect appearance is considered part of success. The evolution was natural and makes sense. If two equally capable people apply for a position, you prefer the “better-looking” one. In a country where there were too many draws in the race for the top spots, they simply invented another criterion. In South Korea, feminized men are considered the ideal of beauty, something you should aspire to.

Fortunately, not you as tourists. Feel free to have beards, freckles, scars… and enjoy traveling to a country close to Western thinking, but still very exotic and with its own identity. Koreans will be pleasant, respectful hosts to you, and you might even take their cuisine home with you. Like us. Soft power.



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