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‘Parasite’ Oscars say a lot about South Korea

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NEW YORK – On Sunday night, there was widespread rejoicing when the South Korean film “Parasite” received the Academy Award for best picture along with several other awards. Not only was this the first such win for a movie in a language other than English, but to many it represented a long-sought victory for Korean popular culture.

It’s not the first such victory. In the past decade, Korean music and TV shows have exploded in global popularity. The Korean band BTS is the first since the Beatles to release three Billboard No. 1 albums in a single year. Their U.S. concerts are wildly popular, and their fandom transcends both region and ethnicity. China is crazy for K-pop, too. And Korean drama programs, already hugely popular across East Asia, are making inroads around the world.

But the Korean wave isn’t just a global cultural fad; it’s the capstone of a unique and remarkable national growth story.

Many countries that are rich and industrialized today once possessed colonial empires from which they extracted vast amounts of natural resources. A handful of others are European states, such as Switzerland, that avoided being colonized themselves. But Korea never had an empire, and it was a Japanese colony from 1910 until 1945. Shortly after the end of that period of subjugation, the entire peninsula was devastated by the Korean War. In........

© The Japan Times