Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An unreported Korean invasion

It's common to blame the west for anything that goes wrong in India including loss of culture and heritage. But, an IndiaUnheard report shows a different picture where the North Eastern region is experiencing a cultural invasion from the East - Korea.

Wokha in Nagaland is just another hill town in North Eastern India with poor civic facilities and rich tribal traditions. Like the rest of the region, people here are emotional about forest, land and ethnic traditions. And like the rest of the state, people in Wokha too are supportive of the Naga's struggle for self rule.

Ironic, therefore, is the fact that, despite the decade-long violent struggle to save their tribal identity and refusal to be ‘Indianised', the youth of Nagaland have fallen prey to the spell of Korean culture.

The most watched TV channel in the state is the Korean channel Arirang TV, DVD and CD shops are bursting with Korean films and the hottest hair-dos offered by salons are the ones flaunted by popular Korean actors and actresses. All salons carry posters of a particular Korean actor who is much admired by the youth. Shops are selling street fashions that are currently in vogue in Korea, cultural evenings in the state have special ‘Korean song' contests and sports events have categories like ‘Korean wrestling'. Arirang TV is not only watched avidly but also receives requests from the youth of north-east Indian states and newspapers regularly carry a listing of its programmes. In the meanwhile, the entire media seems to be ignoring the issue and treating it as an inconsequential and natural phenomenon.

While it is difficult to date back the advent of Korean culture precisely, by 2007 it had already been around for long enough for the government of Nagaland to have included Korean wrestling and songs in the annual Hornbill Festival.

Breaking this incomprehensible silence, one IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent from Wokha filed a story on this Korean invasion. Shot on streets of Wokha, the video report of Renchano Humtsoe captures the disturbing trend of unquestioningly accepting all things Korean by the younger Naga population.

Says Renchano, “I felt it wasn't normal that everyone was adopting Korean style and culture but I wasn't sure if that was worth news because nobody seemed to be talking about it.”

Once Renchano did his story there were more revelations by IndiaUnheard's other correspondents from the region. It became clear that from Ukhrul in Manipur to Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh, the influence of Korean culture has been growing at an alarming speed. In Manipur the ban on Hindi films by insurgents has opened the floodgates for Korean films and videos.

A Kamei, a journalist with AIR stationed in Imphal does not at all find the advent of Korean culture surprising. She says, ``People always liked non-Indian things here. So we were anyway using non-Indian products. Korean products are just an extension. In fact Koreans are so similar to us.''

Renchano's video has raised a number of questions: How do Korean consumer goods manage to reach the market so easily? Why do cable operators subscribe to Arirang TV? Why have people chosen the culture of Korea over that of Thailand, Taiwan or, for that matter, any other Asian country of the region? Why do people, who are so vocal against Hindi, have no issues with everything Korean?

Above all, the story leaves me aghast at the media which has been so quick to point out all types of foreign invasions and yet ignores the onset of an alien culture which is bound to leave a mark on the younger generation.

While these issues are being debated, reporters like Renchano should take a bow for bringing to light a story that has gone unheard for so long.

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