Riding the Korean Wave of Hallyu at Meetings

Not so long ago, hallyu, or the “Korean Wave” cultural phenomenon in South Korea was a passion isolated to the young and restless. But the movement that started with music and television is now seeped so deeply into daily life that the country’s main meetings event, held this month, focused on how hallyu can be integrated with the industry.

“When MICE events are held in Korea, foreign participants have said that the most important thing to them is shopping; we needed to find something more than shopping to have a competitive edge,” said Ahn Suwook, managing director of SM Entertainment, a South Korean company, in his keynote address—to 350 Asian companies and 250 non-Asian international firms—at Korea MICE Expo in Incheon June 14-15. That has led the company to develop more products for people to enjoy whenever it is convenient for them. SM strives to cover four areas—shows, sightseeing, food, stays and shopping.

Initially, hallyu’s main component was K-Pop, with its vibrant music scene, featuring bright, explosive colors, as well as bizarre fashion and exciting pyrotechnics. Hallyu expanded to include Korean art, literature, movies and TV programs, emphasizing the contemporary and at times highly innovative. Now, it also includes old Korean traditions and customs.

Recognizing the importance of hallyu, the South Korean government is providing funding for start-ups and supporting new, creative industries. This has played a major role in the rapid rise of South Korea and its major city, Seoul, toward the top of international meetings destinations rankings.