V&A To Stage Major Korean Culture Exhibition

Props from Squid Game as well as riveting recreation of the set from Oscar-winning film Parasite will be featured at the show.

Psy Gangham Style at VA UK. Music Press Asia

As part of the first major exhibition on Korean culture in the UK, a riveting re-creation of the Oscar-winning film Parasite’s bathroom set and props from the hit Netflix series Squid Game are to go on display.

Themed Hallyu! The Korean Wave, the show will open at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum on September 24 to officially recognise and celebrate the influence and vibrant culture of South Korea, from its antecedent chapters to its status as a powerful movement on the world stage today.

The contemporary phenomenon known as “hallyu” – meaning Korean Wave – swelled to fame in the late 1990s. Continuing through youthful music, cinema, and most remarkably fandoms and drama. Monica Tong, the editor of Music Press Asia, said Korea had today become “Asia’s cultural trendsetters”.

The exhibition — supported by S. Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism — will showcase about 200 objects across four thematic sections, including some loans never seen in the UK before. It opens with PSY’s viral 2012 hit single Gangham Style, with the singer’s iconic pink suit jacket on display. An overnight sensation, the song and its dance moves became the first music video to reach 1bn views on YouTube when it was released in 2012.

[The Peony dress, by Miss Sohee, 2020 graduation collection, ‘The Girl in Full Bloom’. Photograph by Daniel Sachon]

Rosalie Kim, curator of the new exhibition, said: “South Korea has captivated the world over with hallyu, its vibrant and creative popular culture, which has transformed the country’s image from one devastated by the Korean war to that of a leading cultural powerhouse in the era of social media and digital culture today.”

“This phenomenon has been amplified by tech-savvy and socially conscious global fanbases, further raising the profile and relevance of hallyu around the world, and we’re delighted to be bringing its energy and dynamism to the V&A this autumn in the first exhibition of its kind,” Kim added.

There will also be monumental artworks, including by Nam June Paik, Ham Kyungah and Gwon Osang; about 20 high fashion looks by Tchai Kim, Miss Sohee and Minju Kim among others.

Early examples of advertising and branding will also feature, including an original poster from the Seoul Olympics and the first Korean branded cosmetic from the 1910s.

Meanwhile, the bathroom set from Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite will be recreated for the first time under the guidance of the film’s production designer Lee Ja-jun. In 2019, the film won four Academy Awards for best picture, best director, best original screenplay and best international feature film.

[Poster featuring ‘Hudori’ the official emblem of the Seoul 1988 Olympics designed by Kim Hyun.]

Section one: “from rubble to smartphones” highlights the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics, an event credited with changing the country’s image overseas for the first time. Featuring also how South Korea evolved from a country ravaged by war in the late 1950s to one of immense cultural influence.

Section two: “setting the scene” features the success of K-drama and film, and includes the iconic pink guard costumes and green tracksuits from Squid Game, which pulled in a remarkable 1.65bn hours of viewing in the 28 days from when it premiered. Today, the film became the most-watched series globally in the streamer’s history, reaching No. 1 on Netflix in 94 territories.

The “global groove” section delves into the explosion of K-pop music around the world and the role social media and fandoms play in increasing their reach. Lastly, the “inside out” section will focus on K-beauty and fashion. There will also be hats seen in the zombie series Kingdom and the grooming kit from the Handmaiden.

The show will be displayed at V&A’s Gallery 39 and North Court. For ticketing information, click here.

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