Inside the room of Fiza Khan, an 11th class student, is a glass cupboard. There are many pictures, mugs and signatures of BTS neatly decorated on every shelf. In the middle is her name written in Korean language, gifted to her by a Korean friend.
BTS, also known as Beyond The Scene, is a musical band from South Korea comprising seven members who are popular for their music. BTS has a huge fan following among young folks of Kashmir.
Fiza has been a stan for BTS since 2015. Her interest in Korean culture increased when a group of students and teachers from Korea visited her school with an intention to participate in the school function. While interacting with Korean students, she learnt about their culture, K-pop industry and much more.
“BTS creates music about self-love and motivation. They have also created a Global Campaign called Love Myself. Not just for music, they are also known for kindness. One day, one of the BTS members in an interview suggested some Korean dramas (also known as k-dramas) and movies since then I started watching. There is a never-ending list of Korean dramas that I have watched till date,” she said.
Hallyu or Korean wave seems to make its way in Kashmir. Korean dramas and Korean pop culture are getting famous among the youth of Kashmir. It was during the Covid lockdown that many people while exploring entertainment sources stopped at K dramas while others were aware about them before the pandemic.
Sadiya, a student and a resident of Zakura called herself BTS ARMY. She said that through their song, BTS spread message of love, hope and affection.
Recently BTS has performed their latest hit, Permission to Dance at the United Nations General Assembly and are formally appointed as the Special Presidential Envoys for Future Generations and Culture. BTS has also been part of the campaign “Love Myself” with UNICEF.
Besides being a whole new concept, K dramas offer a good source of entertainment to youth. Korean dramas are streaming on Netflix and are available on YouTube with English subtitles. Some dramas are dubbed in Hindi. Also, there are many websites that offer a huge variety of K dramas to viewers.
Sadiya said the focus of the dramas is about new technologies, new relationships and fantasies. “They are very different from mundane stories. Even the fantasies are presented in such a way that it becomes hard to not believe,” she said while citing one of her favourite fantasy K drama, Guardian: The Lonely and Great God.
The drama portrays a goblin who was cursed with pain of immorality. He waits 900 years for a human bride to remove an invisible sword from his chest to end his life.
Sadiya said that K dramas are her escape from reality. “I have started imagining more. Sometimes it’s good to escape from reality and enter into the world of imagination so that you can be happy,” she said.
A class 12 student, Syed Ajwad is linked to K dramas from almost 3 years. After being a fan of BTS, Ajwad started knowing about K culture. “They have a very rich culture. There are many things to learn like during dinner it's the younger one who serves the dinner and pours water into the glasses. If any elder would do so, it is considered very disrespectful. And the elder one has to lower his head a bit to greet the younger one,” he said.
Presenting different aspects of society with catchy sound tracks and high production value persuaded Ajwad to watch more K dramas. He thinks that there is a correlation between the cultures of India and Korea.
He said, “There are ethics in both cultures. We have some common rituals and I feel connected to it. Stereotypes, women empowerment, respect towards elders, building a good relationship with the family are some common things you can find in both cultures.”
“I recommend people to watch these dramas because they are very fruitful. Their past is very much relevant to our present time and they teach us what we should do to come out of hard situations,” he said.
K dramas usually have 16 episodes. Mahoor Wani, a student from Kashmir University said the dramas have a very short storyline which keeps the unnecessary details away unlike Indian soap operas.
One of the K dramas that she has watched is ‘It’s Okay to Not be Okay’. The story is about a psych ward caretaker and a children’s book writer with an antisocial personality disorder. After meeting, the two begins to heal each other emotionally.
“The drama deals with mental health. The title itself tells the story. There are lots of people who are facing mental problems and we should help them in healing,” she said.
It’s Okay to Not be Okay is also nominated for the 2021 International Emmy Awards.
Another student, Ayusha, said that K-dramas have a completely different vibe. She said, “It’s an emotional roller coaster ride. The plot twists are not typical and the dramas don’t have predictable storylines. The day I started watching, I was so fascinated by them. It seemed like there was no going back from here.”
“Watching K-drama is like living another life that is full of charming characters. The (OST) Original Sound Track captures the soul first, and then the storyline gets stuck in the mind until the drama is over. That’s why the Hallyu wave is spreading everywhere,” she said.
K dramas have changed the dressing sense of some youths while some have adopted healthy habits.
Fiza said, “Since I started watching K-dramas, I have changed my dressing sense. Firstly, I used to wear anything randomly but now I only wear baggy and aesthetic clothes. K-dramas like Dr. Stranger motivated me a lot to read.”
Mahoor said, “In every drama, female actors do their skin care routine before going to bed which has made me opt for a skin care routine too before sleeping. Their dressing sense is also good. They usually wear baggy clothes which we can wear here too.”
Using Korean words and phrases while having conversation with friends is not a new thing for these young folks now.
“I have learnt many words and I use them with those friends who watch K dramas like there are different ways to say hello. Annyeonghaseyo for a formal greeting, Annyeong for greeting children, Yeaboseya is used when a phone is answered and the same goes for Thank You,” said Mahoor.
Ayusha, who is currently in Pune, said that she has started a course to read, speak and write Korean language. “I look forward to the day I can watch K-dramas without subtitles. This might sound crazy but I have even ordered chopsticks and started to learn how to use them,” she said.
According to a Netflix report, between 2019 and 2020, viewership of Korean dramas in India had increased by 370%.