More than a decade ago there was the Japanese fever. From Japanese pop music to products made from green tea— Japanese trends were also big in Thailand during that time. However, there is now a new fever that’s hotter in Thailand. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s the Korean fever. It is without a doubt that Korean pop culture has a big influence on the lifestyle of Thais. Try walking down the street in Bangkok (even in the crummy desolated neighborhood) and you’ll be surprised to see posters of Korean celebrities advertising bb cream and face powder. Thai teenagers and young adults, in particular women, are influenced by the Korean pop culture as is evident by the products they purchase, their fashion style, and the TV shows they choose to watch.
Back in 2005, a Korean drama Dae Jang Geum aired in Thailand and became a big hit. After this drama series aired, more and more Korean films began to make their way into Thailand. Dae Jang Geum’s plot revolved around a female protagonist with the same name. She became a cook at the palace during the Joseon Dynasty and worked her way into becoming a royal physician. On many episodes, there were scenes that showcased various types of traditional Korean culinary delicacies because after all, the main character was a cook. After watching this drama series, some viewers became more aware of Korean food and were interested to try them. Korean restaurants could be found throughout Bangkok even before this drama series was aired. However, the number of Korean restaurants has increased over the years as Korea started to gain popularity in Thailand through their pop culture.
After Korean series have made their way into Thailand, Korean music began seeping in as well. Korean pop music (K-pop) is the favored genre of music and is comprised of girl group (all female band members) and boy group (all male). Considering that not many Thais know how to speak Korean but all K-pop lyrics are in Korean, were these K-pop groups actually popular in Thailand? The answer is Yes! When a K-pop group comes visit Thailand, hundreds and thousands of screaming fans (mainly teenagers and young female adults) would come ten hours early just to sit and wait until their celebrity crush walk on stage. Some students even ditched school to come attend the concert. Thai fans could sing-a-long to the lyrics without even knowing a single Korean word. As people became more interested in K-pop, some of them decided to take Korean language course. Even flying to Korea has been on a lot of Korean enthusiasts dream list.
When fans fawn over their favorite Korean celebrities, they fawn over what those celebrities wore as well. K-pop and K-drama not only sell the film and the music, they also sell the celebrity’s merchandise and appearance. Korean’s fashions quickly became a trend in Thailand. Unfortunately, Korea has four seasons in their country whereas Thailand is just hot and humid most of the year. This means that some of the Korean clothing were designed to be worn during the colder months in their country. It might be quite impractical to wear those outfits in Thailand. However, don’t be surprised if you see Thai teenagers wearing layers of shirt and jacket under the scorching heat so that they would look like their Korean pop idol.
Apart from the fashion trend, the physical appearance of the K-pop and K-drama celebrities have made it possible for the Korean beauty industry to sell even more products. Onscreen, Korean celebs tend to have flawless porcelain-like skin. Whether this has been made possible by good genes, cosmetic surgery, or rigorous skincare regime, but one thing’s for sure, many Thai women wanted that flawless look. Skincare products that promise to give blemish-free, fair, dewy skin are very popular. Snail cream, bb cream, emulsion, toner, and serum are just some of the few Korean skincare products that are sold in Thailand from high-end shopping malls to street market. There are even Chinese and Thai dupe version of the products.
Sometimes just for marketing purpose, the company which produced those products would put the word “Korea” somewhere on the label just to make the product sounds authentic. For example: Yogurt face mask made with honey from Korea. Thai people would be more willing to buy “Korean” skincare products because to them any skincare from Korea looks quite promising.