The Korean wave or K-wave (Korean: 한류; Hanja: 韓流; RR: Hallyu; MR: Hallyu, listen (help·info), a neologism, literally meaning "wave/flow of Korea") is the increase in global popularity of South Korean culture since the 1990s. First driven by the spread of K-dramas and K-pop across East, Southeast and South Asia during its initial stages, the Korean Wave have since evolved from a regional development in Asia into a global phenomenon, carried by the Internet and social media and the proliferation of K-pop music videos on YouTube. While some sources attribute the term Hallyu, a variation of a Japanese expression using Ryu (流) as a postfix to refer to '~way', '~style' or '~group', to being first used by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in South Korea in 1999, when the ministry produced a music CD titled in Chinese 韓流—Song from Korea, other scholarly sources attribute the term's ascendance from Korean television dramas first airing on Chinese television in 1997, naming the phenomenon hanliu (simplified Chinese: 韩流; traditional Chinese: 韓流; pinyin: Hánliú), meaning "Korean wave". The term was adopted by Chinese media to refer to the success of South Korean popular culture in China. The term was reintroduced in Japan as hanryu or kanryu by the Asahi Shimbun in 2001. These two terms, hallyu and Korean wave, were included in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) in 2021.
Since the turn of the 21st century, South Korea has emerged as a major exporter of popular culture and tourism, aspects which have become a significant part of its rapidly developed economy. The growing popularity of Korean pop culture in the world was at least partly driven and funded by the South Korean government supporting its creative industries since the end of the 1990s through subsidies and funding for start-ups, as a form of accruing soft power with the goal of becoming a leading global exporter of culture, a niche that the United States has dominated for nearly a century. In 2014, the South Korean government allocated 1% of its annual budget to cultural industries and raised a $1 billion fund to nurture popular culture.
The success of the Korean wave is also due to the development of social networking services and online video sharing platforms, which have allowed the Korean entertainment industry to reach a sizable overseas audience since the 2000s. Korean dramas have enjoyed widespread availability via streaming services which often offer subtitles in multiple languages. Many K-dramas have been adapted throughout the world, achieving notable popularity in some countries. K-dramas have attracted attention for their fashion, style and culture all over the world.
^Russell, Mark James (27 September 2012). "The Gangnam Phenom". FP. Retrieved 11 October 2012. First taking off in China and Southeast Asia in the late 1990s, but really spiking after 2002, Korean TV dramas and pop music have since moved to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and now even parts of South America.
^"PSY's 'Gangnam Style': The Billboard Cover Story". Billboard. 26 October 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2012. The Korean music industry grossed nearly $3.4 billion in the first half of 2012, according to Billboard estimates, a 27.8% increase from the same period last year.