‘Sarangeh’ (I Love U)
As strange as it sounds, these words are becoming extremely common and have become a part of regular conversation among the youth, especially teenagers, in schools across the city. The ease with which youth are communicating in a foreign language (Korean) and embracing the Korean culture just goes to show that the ‘Korean Wave’ or ‘Hallyu’ has found a firm fan base in Arunachal Pradesh, particularly in the State capital of Itanagar.
This fascination with everything Korean is not new in the Northeast, in fact the region is home to one of the biggest and most successful cosplay events in the region which is held annually at Nagaland. However, it is only recently that teens in Arunachal Pradesh have jumped on the Korean bandwagon. The influence of K-pop (Korean pop music) can be seen in flamboyant hairstyles and dewy, flawless finish make-up; while they seem to have picked up cultural and behavioural traits such as using chopsticks to eat and sleeping on the floor instead of the bed, from K-drama (Korean drama) and movies.
This rage with all things Korean has also resulted in the mushrooming of cafes and restaurants in Itanagar which are dedicated to Korean cuisine. Kimbap, Bibimbap, Korean green tea, Tangsuyuk, and Jajangmyeon are just some of the South Korean delicacies that the youth are ordering in place of the usual momos and thukpa.
Watti Sor, a native of Nagaland, who runs Café Moa, credits her Korean husband as the inspiration behind opening the much frequented outlet at Vivek Vihar. The couple says business aside, they also wanted to introduce Itanagarians to a new taste. ‘The youth of Arunachal are currently leaning towards Korean culture, music, fashion and movies. The idea behind opening the joint is to provide an opportunity for the locals, especially the youth, to taste the cuisine of a place they have been influenced by,’ she added. Another eatery, Kitchen King has hired a trained chef from mainland India in view of the huge demand. And in case you are wondering, ‘Kimbap’ (Korean sushi roll) so far seems to be the most popular item on the menu.
The ‘Hallyu’ world domination relies heavily on the adulation of the youth however this sub-culture has been viewed by some adults as a point of concern as they feel that the younger generation are wandering away from their roots. But Techi Tallang, lead vocalist of boy band ‘Brooks’, which represented India in the K-Pop Contest in South Korea organised by Korean Culture Centre India (KCCI) last year begs to differ. ‘In this age of modernization, we must learn to go with the flow but having said that, it is also crucial that balance is maintained. It is possible for the youth to follow western trends and yet not stray from their traditional culture and customs.’ Tallang, influenced by the K-Pop trend, dressed in distressed jeans and sporting funky ombre hair is a star among K-Pop fans in other states as well. ‘K-pop is more than entertainment and it has changed my way of life.’
‘Korean songs are distinctive and their dramas are highly addictive. I also like their way of life, which has some similarity to ours,’ said Julian Pinggam, a K-Pop artist running a band called V2A. The 14 year old student, with her partner, Sophia Michigan had bagged the third place in the national level K-Pop Contest last year.
No matter the reason, the inroad made by a faraway culture is not short of phenomenal and has an underlying larger message. Somewhere in the cute packaging and all the paraphernalia, Korean culture has successfully enabled easy assimilation of the Northeast people. This sense of belonging which K-culture has managed to inspire amongst the youth is the prime reason why the Hallyu wave is here to stay.
This feature was published in Eclectic Northeast May 2018 issue under a special arrangement with Eastern Sentinel