Skip to content

South Korea’s Moment Owes More to Samsung Than Squid Game

The country isn’t trying to export its way of life as the U.S. did in the 20th century. Selling cars and phones is enough.
relates to South Korea’s Moment Owes More to Samsung Than Squid Game
Illustration: George Wylesol for Bloomberg Businessweek

South Korea is having a moment. Between the hit Netflix show Squid Game, the chart-topping boy band BTS, and the Academy Award-winning movie Parasite, the country’s culture suddenly seems to be everywhere.

With each allusion to Hallyu—the so-called Korean wave of cultural exports—an invocation of Seoul’s soft power is often not far behind. Unlike hard power, which forces others to follow your wishes, soft power helps you win their support by demonstrating the appeal of your culture and values. That Squid Game and Parasite are an expression of Korean soft power seems to have become an accepted fact. The reality may be more complex.