This article isn’t me trying to take anything away from South Korea or Hong Kong, rather it is an appreciation of the two small Asian entities who have been able to flourish on the international stage, despite their limitations. The two places have crazy similarities, including but not limited to: it’s lack of natural resources (yet being economical power houses), it’s neighbors to the north who are less enjoyable, an awful relationship (historically) with Japan, and that the two languages – Cantonese and Korean, actually have quite a few similar words. However, more than anything today I wanted to talk about pop culture and their impact on the international scene.
As we all know Korean pop culture has taken front and center. Whether you want to talk about Korean pop music, Korean films and television, or Korean food – the Hallyu wave is probably the strongest now than it will ever be. Obviously from reading this blog, you would know that I love Korean pop music and beyond that I do make sure to keep up with all the big shows and films that come out of Korea. But if we were to look back – Hong Kong did their thing as well on the international scene. Hong Kong was actually the first Asian city to make its entertainment industry known to the world stage. Perhaps not with music or fashion like Korea – as Hong Kong was still not affluent at the time of its pop culture rise but in film – maybe no other culture has left a bigger cultural impact. Hong Kong walked, so Korea could run (internationally, again not trying to discredit Korea).
If you love film, I don’t think that it’s an exaggeration at all to suggest that Hong Kong created the modern action film. Between Kung-Fu films as well as anything John Woo has ever created, those films touch every aspect of action films in modern day America. Almost every Asian in Hollywood back in the day, came from Hong Kong or got started in Hong Kong. I’m talking Jet Li, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Chow Yun Fat, Stephen Chow, and Michelle Yeoh – a Bond girl, from Hong Kong! Even with the Shang-Chi film, Tony Leung and Fala Chen – got their starts in Hong Kong. SHIT, Benedict Wong’s parents are from Hong Kong. And I haven’t even started on directors like Wong Kar Wai – oh lord. We just going to pretend that Wong Kar Wai didn’t have one of the greatest runs ever as a director between 1990 to 2004? The man will go down as the greatest director alive who didn’t create mainstream films (yes this is a biased take but I stand by it). No one paced dramas and directed PEOPLE as well as Wong Kar Wai.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was always very proud that Hong Kong, a group of islands with around 7 million people made such an impact on international culture. Now we have South Korea, another little island nation shaking things up internationally. If you’re Korean you must feel so proud. I don’t think that I will ever have that feeling of “oh I wonder what Hong Kong is going to produce next”, considering the Chinese government’s agenda with Hong Kong, but to the Koreans – I hope your stay in the limelight is a long one because you deserve it.