How the Hallyu Wave Redefined Travels to South Korea and Its Tourism

How the Hallyu Wave Redefined Travels to South Korea and Its Tourism

We've all got the Hallyu fever at this point!

Two decades ago, the mention of South Korea wouldn’t make ears prick up the same way it does today. But now, The Land of the Morning Calm has successfully made its way to almost every traveller’s bucket list. As a TripZilla writer, I have also observed that South Korea consistently ranks as one of the most searched for and clicked places among our many destination articles. So, what changed — or rather, what upgraded South Korea’s allure? What exactly is it that makes South Korea “clickable” today?

Besides the obvious answers like food, attractions, and seasons, there has to be a special trigger which made South Korea snowball into an ultimate Asian destination. Shall we look into it?

The contribution of the Hallyu wave

Winter Sonata

The term hallyu, as most of us know by now, was coined by the Chinese in reference to the Korean Wave. In the 1990s, Chinese audiences had started to develop a strong interest in the Korean Wave, which then pertained to Korean pop music and dramas. The Korean government adopted this term and decided to fund and support Hallyu culture to showcase Korea’s “soft power” — a country’s power and influence through image — to the world. 

Also read: Here’s How The South Korean Government Helped K-pop Rise to Global Fame

It proved to be an effective tool; by 2004, Hallyu culture would help South Korea amass approximately US$1.87 billion worth of GDP. And with the Hallyu wave eventually expanding to Korean films, food, fashion, and beauty among other cultural aspects, it raked in a whopping US$12.3 billion worth of revenue for South Korea in 2019. 

So, how does this go back to South Korea as a popular destination or how does Hallyu inspire us to travel there? According to a study about Hallyu’s impact on South Korean tourism, published in the Journal of Open Innovation, the number of foreign visitors travelling to Korea increased significantly since the South Korean government made Hallyu culture an official initiative in 1998. Back then, South Korea only received 300,000 foreign visitors per year; but by 2004, the country fruitfully received 11.8 million visiting foreign tourists.

The study gives a concrete example citing how the Korean drama Winter Sonata encouraged Japanese tourists to visit South Korea, wherein the country saw an increase of Japanese tourists by 35.5% as opposed to the previous year. In a survey, 47% of the respondents claimed they wanted to see South Korea because of Winter Sonata’s influence. 

How Hallyu tourism actually encompasses everything


There are many faces of the Hallyu wave that contribute to Hallyu tourism, but K-pop and K-dramas are undoubtedly at the forefront. K-pop is loved for its iconic girl and boy groups whose members all go through rigorous singing and dance training before debuting. The most notable ones today are Blackpink and BTS, both of which if you haven’t heard of by now, then you ought to come out of your hobbit hole. K-pop groups, after all, have infiltrated world-famous talk shows and award shows, what with the backing of the South Korea government and highly competent agencies. 


With the dawn of highly trained professional entertainers and unmatched performances, K-pop fans began to emerge from around the world and flock to South Korea in hopes of catching a pop concert and seeing their favourite Korean idols in person.

The influence of K-pop idols has also sparked the interest of international fans for concert tours, cultural tours, and even language learning. Because K-pop songs are best appreciated when you actually understand each word without searching for the translation, right? Same goes for K-dramas.

What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim?

Speaking of, K-dramas have a life of their own. It’s through K-dramas and their impressionable stories that audiences around the world are able to discover and appreciate all other aspects of Hallyu, from music, language, food, beauty, culture, sports, and even Korean tourism itself. With so many K-dramas presenting the beauty and promise of South Korea, the urge to fly to the Land of the Morning Calm to encounter its people and see famous filming locations for ourselves becomes even stronger. 

It’s safe to say that as Hallyu culture grows and continuously reaches out to different international audiences, the more beneficial it is for South Korea’s tourism. According to Statista, South Korea reached a record of 17.5 million visitors in 2019 while 23.3% of this population claimed that they visited to seek Hallyu experiences, whether to watch K-pop concerts or tour K-drama attractions. From Statista’s survey, they found that many of these foreign tourists came from Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Taiwan, Germany, and Hong Kong. 

Crash Landing On You

And it seems that even the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t hindered South Korea from expanding their Hallyu reach. In 2020, the Korean Tourism Organization partnered with Netflix to launch a collection of Netflix Originals on the platform, such as Crash Landing On You (CLOY), Itaewon Class, and It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. I’m sure those titles ring a bell. 

With such powerful stories under its belt, Hallyu tourism ends up not only promoting South Korea as a destination, but also foreign destinations; such was the case of K-dramas like CLOY, Descendants of the Sun, and Goblin

Also read: It’s Okay to Not Be Okay Filming Locations: 15 Must-Visit Spots in South Korea

Before and beyond Hallyu

Let’s face it though, the K-dramas that we watch wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining if it weren’t for all the things South Korea naturally has to offer. The sweet temptation of Korean BBQ on top of all the delectable cuisines, the bustling street markets for shopaholics and bargain hunters, impressive heritage temples, and the magical scenes of South Korea through all its seasons. We only get a glimpse of these wonders in the K-dramas we watch. But whether we’ve submerged ourselves in Hallyu culture or not, the splendour of South Korea undoubtedly makes it a clickable destination, so to speak. 

Beyond the Hallyu wave, South Korea is a very safe place to live. With its incredibly low crime rate, tourists can enjoy their vacations worry and stress-free. Match that with a very clean environment, efficient transportation, hospitable service, and breathtaking nature escapes, exploring Korea is a walk in the park, literally and figuratively. 

Therefore, we summarise that it’s only too easy to fall in love with South Korea once you have your eyes and goals set on it. But if you need more reasons to fly to the Land of Morning Calm, then you might want to read this

About Author

Therese Sta. Maria
Therese Sta. Maria

Therese's close friends know that if they haven’t seen her around recently, then she’s probably having an adventure with her luggage and camera in hand. Though she loves staying at home and spending lazy afternoons with friends, there are times when she has to be "away from home to feel at home," — that’s when she’s bitten by the travel bug. See her travels on Instagram @reesstamaria.


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