K-Pop To K-Dramas: The Unstoppable Wave Of Korean Culture Through These 8 Timelines

Ever found yourself jamming to a K-pop beat, drooling over Korean BBQ, or obsessing over the latest K-drama? If not, have you been living under a rock? These might seem like everyday activities now, but they’re part of a global phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. 

During and after the pandemic, as we all found ourselves stuck at home, burning through our usual content, many people discovered the addictive beats of K-pop and the captivating world of K-dramas. From addictive melodies and iconic dialogues to trendsetting fashion, mouth-watering dishes, and the coveted “glass skin” beauty products, the influence of Korean culture is everywhere.

Whether you realise it or not, K-culture has seamlessly woven into our daily lives fabric. For those still wondering how Korean culture skyrocketed to such fame, buckle up and prepare for a journey through history. We’re about to explore the pivotal moments that catapulted K-pop and Korean culture onto the global stage.

’90s Kickoff: Local to Global Fame


Globalisation was the spark that ignited it all. As countries opened their borders, Korea began sharing its cultural treasures with neighbours like China and Japan. By 2008, Korea’s cultural exports had outpaced its imports for the first time, heralding its ascent as a cultural powerhouse.

The OG Gangnam Style

Then came 2012, and with it, a game-changer: Gangnam Style that had everyone hooked even without knowing what K-pop is. This viral sensation didn’t just break the internet—it sent shockwaves through the global pop culture landscape. PSY’s infectious hit galloped its way to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking it the first video to be viewed over 1 Billion times on YouTube, the biggest video-sharing platform. This was a major splash of Korean culture in the European, American, and Southeast Asian markets.

PSY’s next big move came with the launch of his next song, Gentleman, in 2013, gaining a lot of popularity and reaching 100 million views within just 4 days of its release. Suddenly, the whole world was dancing to a new beat.

K-pop Takeover With BTS 

Whenever South Korea comes to mind, BTS is surely the first name that springs up. Their fame skyrocketed around late 2015 and early 2016, as hits like Run, Dope, Spring Day, and Blood Sweat & Tears captured the hearts of millions. With deep, thoughtful lyrics paired with irresistible beats, BTS’s music forged a powerful connection with fans worldwide. Notably, the Blood Sweat & Tears music video became the fastest K-pop group video to hit 20 million views.

By 2017, BTS had garnered international acclaim with their song DNA, which set a record for the most viewed music video in 24 hours, amassing over 22 million views. Beyond chart-topping hits and sold-out world tours, BTS made their mark on the American music scene, culminating in a Grammy nomination for their 2021 single Dynamite.

BTS, often known as the Legends of K-pop, transcended the realm of music. They consistently strive to make a positive impact through initiatives like their partnership with UNICEF to combat violence, abuse, and bullying, and to promote self-esteem and well-being among youth globally. Their soulful lyrics and community-driven actions further underline their commitment to creating meaningful change.

Their global popularity contributes around 4.9 Billion USD to the South Korean economy which leds them to be recognised as tourism ambassadors for the country. The group’s leader, Kim Namjoon aka RM, was also honoured with the status of the public relations ambassador for the Ministry of National Defence of the Republic of Korea.

Their meteoric rise didn’t just amplify K-pop—it ignited a global craze for Korean fashion, beauty products, food, tourism and hairstyles. With the unwavering support of their ARMY, BTS paved the way for a new era of cultural influence.

K-entertainment Industry Influence on Fashion

K-pop has long been a realm ruled by girl groups, and since 2016, bands like BLACKPINK, (G)I-dle, ITZY, and Twice have catapulted Korean fashion onto the global stage. Their synchronized dance moves and flawlessly coordinated outfits aren’t just performances; they’re trendsetting events. It’s as if every piece of clothing they don sparks a fashion craze and every song they release becomes an instant playlist staple.

Hyun Bin for Loro Piana

The rise of K-pop and K-drama has positioned South Korea as a powerhouse in the global market, with consumers heavily influenced by the styles and fashion of their favourite artists. This influence has not gone unnoticed by international luxury brands, leading to a significant increase in Korean representation in the fashion industry.


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Korean musicians and actors have become brand ambassadors for some of the most renowned brands. The list is impressive: Hyun Bin for Loro Piana, Song Hye-kyo for Fendi, Jisoo for Cartier, and Ma Ka-young for Dolce and Gabbana, among many others. This trend highlights the immense impact of South Korean culture on global fashion and luxury markets.

Train To Busan: The Film That Redefined Cinema In 2016

Before we were all fluent in Korean cinema, “Train to Busan” came roaring down the tracks, glueing both local and international audiences to their seats. This zombie-filled rollercoaster through South Korea wasn’t just a movie—it was a full-blown emotional workout, balancing spine-tingling scares with gut-wrenching drama.

This movie was a blockbuster sensation, capturing the attention of 11 million viewers in a country of just over 51 million people. Upon its release, it dominated the Korean box office, accounting for a staggering 75% of the weekend revenue. It wasn’t just a local phenomenon; it became one of the highest-grossing films globally, raking in approximately 98.5 million USD in international revenue.


With a star-studded cast featuring Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an, and Choi Woo-shik, this film didn’t just break the big screen—it left it in a state of post-apocalyptic awe.

Direction Excellence of Bong Joon-ho

Kudos to Director Bong Joon-ho for inviting us into his brilliantly bonkers universe of cinema, where every film is a masterstroke. Garnering three Academy Awards, his filmography is a genre-bending rollercoaster, rich with social and class commentary, dark humour, and unexpected tone shifts.

From the Oscar-winning Parasite to the thrilling The Host, each movie transports you to a unique, immersive world. Bong Joon-ho didn’t just contribute to Korean cinema; he catapulted it onto the global stage with style and wit.

2019 unleashed the spine-chilling phenomenon Parasite, a film that shook the entertainment world to its core. This Korean cinematic powerhouse didn’t just make waves—it made history, snagging four Academy Awards, including the Best Picture Oscar in 2020. With a plot twister than a K-drama and a cast that nailed every scene, Parasite had the whole world perched on the edge of their seats for two thrilling hours. 

The director’s highly anticipated next venture, Mickey 17, is set to premiere on January 28, 2025. Prepare to be enthralled by this upcoming thriller, starring Robert Pattinson, which promises to transport you into a captivating world of sci-fi and action.

K-culture Popularity During Pandemic

While K-pop undeniably leads the charge in popularizing South Korean culture, other factors play significant roles, including the IT industry, Korean cuisine, and the film and television sectors. The pandemic marked a crucial point in the global rise of Korean culture.

Pre-pandemic, listening to K-pop was often dismissed, but post-pandemic, it became the “cool thing” to do. As people found themselves confined at home and tired of the monotonous local content, they turned to international entertainment for a fresh experience.

The Korean entertainment industry delivered exactly what was needed, whether through captivating K-dramas or infectious music. But it wasn’t just the entertainment sector that thrived; Korean cuisine also saw a remarkable boom. In 2020, the Korean food processing industry recorded its highest performance, with an 8.5% increase in sales.


In 2023, the reality TV show “Jenny’s Kitchen” hit the streets of Mexico, starring Park Seo-joon, Choi Woo-shik, V, Jung Yu-mi, and Lee Seo-jin. This star-studded lineup embarked on a culinary adventure to spread the popularity of Korean cuisine, bringing their unique flavours and dishes to a new audience.

From upscale restaurants to beloved ramyeon noodles with soju, the popularity of Korean food spread widely during the pandemic, resonating from Seoul to India and across the globe.

From Boys Over Flowers To Squid Game

K-dramas have genre-hopped with the agility of a K-pop star in a dance-off. Once best known for their heart-fluttering romances and family sagas like Boys Over Flowers, Coffee Prince, Full House, Goblin, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, and the wildly popular Crash Landing on You, they’ve now stunned us with the twisty, mind-blowing phenomenon that is Squid Game. Talk about a plot twist!

We can’t overlook the show’s visually stunning yet symmetrical aesthetics, paired with a gut-wrenching storyline where children’s games become a matter of life and death. It’s not just a show; it’s a global sensation that’s left us all questioning our childhood games and the stakes we never imagined. 

Also read:

How Korean Stars Eating Food On Screen Has Increased The Appetite For The Cuisine In India

K-pop Closet Revolution: Unleash Your Style With These 5 Fashion Titans

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