1 Psy and “Gangnam Style”—It’s a bit jarring. A pudgy-looking singer named Psy, wearing a suit and sunnies while doing a horseback-riding dance to a song about an elitist lifestyle. But the man, the video and the moves led to a record-breaking hit, a musical jab at Seoul’s high-end district.
2 “Nobody” by the Wonder Girls—Hearing the groove of the retro-dance ditty was enough to get you into the flirty shoulders flick while singing, “I want nobody, nobody but you!”
3 Sandara Park and 2NE1—Sandara grew up before the public eye, from adorable “Krung-Krung” to K-pop star and member of 2NE1, the edgy, hip-hop/R&B/dance all-girl quartet. Though the group has disbanded, Sandara continues to perform all over Asia. She’s a beauty ambassador, style influencer, plus—and this is why Filipinos love her—an avid promoter of the Philippines.
4 Rain—He’s the first multiplatform artist who inspired the global obsession for K-pop. His diversity spans film and TV to the music industry.
5 Boy bands—BTS, EXO, Super Junior, Big Bang, Shinwa, SHINee, Highlight (formerly known as Beast) are just some of the biggest K-pop exports. These hot boy bands also show that distinct grooming—stylish threads, bright-color hair and makeup—on guys can be cool.
6 Girl groups—K-pop’s female singing squads brought glamour and a unique flavor to pop that no other artist in the world has achieved. Bubble-gum sweet, innocent, sexy, fierce—they can do it all while maintaining pretty, youthful looks and slim waists. Some of the best in the last decade or so are Girls’ Generation, Wonder Girls, Kara, 2NE1, f(x), 4Minute, Apink, miss A, Brown Eyed Girls.
7 Variety TV shows—The diversity of South Korean TV programs has given access to all things Hallyu. Among the latest on cable TV and streaming/download apps are “Music Bank,” “Pops in Seoul,” “The Music Trend (Inkigayo),” “Fantastic Duo,” “Immortal Songs,” “Battle Trip,” “Gag Concert,” “Running Man.”
8 “The Return of Superman”—No other reality TV series has documented the dynamics between dads and their kids, where children end up stealing the show.
9 K-drama and “classic” Koreanovela—Fans just can’t get enough of them. If one is serious about being a K-drama stan (obsessive fan), start the education with such classics as “Coffee Prince,” “Winter Sonata,” “Jewel in the Palace,” “Boys Over Flowers,” “Lovers in Paris.”
10 “Goblin”—It has changed the concept of goblins, and sets the bar very high for what a fantasy K-drama should be. No longer the ugly creatures of European folklore, goblins are, instead, dokkaebi—or, at least to viewers, Gong Yoo lookalikes with immense power and immortality.
11 OST as introduction to K-pop—OST, or original soundtrack, completes the K-drama experience while offering a mashup of musical genres. The songs will rekindle memories, the joy and kilig you felt while watching the show.
12 Tourism Korea—Travelers would visit Korea to see K-drama sets and sites, load up on makeup and skincare products, as well as enjoy Korean cuisine.
13 K-drama lingo—As it turned out, Ate Luds, more famous as Inday Badiday, was on to something with her parting words on her 1988-’97 TV show “Eye to Eye”: “Saranghamnida, Bo.” We now understand—and sometimes even inject our daily conversations with—aigo (oh man, OMG), anneio (no), unni, oppa, araso (alright/okay), mianhaeyo (I’m sorry), all thanks to binge-watching K-dramas.
14 (Botched) Hollywood adaptations of Korean films—While it’s flattering that Western cinema paid homage to SK films, did Hollywood adaptations of “Il Mare,” “Oldboy,” “My Sassy Girl” and “A Tale of Two Sisters” have to #fail miserably?
15 “Train to Busan”—This frenetic film directed by Yeon Sang-ho and starring Gong Yoo had us feeling paranoid that a real zombie apocalypse might assault the MRT trains.
16 Devotion to “oppa” and “unni”—Often the leading men and women of K-dramas, gorgeous celebrities like Lee Minho, Lee Jong Suk, Gong Yoo, Lee Dong Wook, Jo In Sung, Song Hye Kyo, Ha Ji-won, Jun Ji Hyun, Park Shin Hye and Gong Hyo-jin are among the finest South Korean actors.
17 Korean celebrities in Hollywood—Top of mind are Rain, Bae Doona (“Sense8,” “Cloud Atlas”), Steven Yeun (“The Walking Dead”) and Lee Byung-hun (“G.I. Joe” films, “Red 2,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “Terminator Genisys”).
18 Korean cuisine—It’s not only our taste for Korean dishes that has improved but also our vocabulary. Bibimbap, samgyeopsal, jjajangmyeon, haemul pajeon, tteokbokki—these multisyllabic words easily roll off our tongues. Supermarkets and convenience stores have also been stocked with Korean treats and desserts like ice cream brand Melona.
19 Technology—SK tech giants Samsung and LG delivered premium android products. These brands also produced reliable home and kitchen appliances.
20 Kia—The automobile company has boosted its image worldwide by aligning itself with celebrity athletes like LeBron James, Michelle Wie and Rafael Nadal, and sponsoring major sports events like tennis’ Australian Open and football’s Europa League.
21 Korean cosmetic brands—The Face Shop, Etude, Tony Moly, Nature Republic, Missha, Club Clio—SK’s beauty industry have invaded our vanity kits.
22 Makeup with skincare benefits—BB cream, CC cream, cushion compact combine makeup and skincare that’s especially formulated for Asian complexion.
23 The 10-step skincare routine—It seems like excessive vanity to spend a lot of time applying stuff and prepping one’s face, but then again, many practitioners claim it actually works. Perhaps its most important lesson is simply to care about our skin.
24 Unconventional beauty trends—Dewy skin, gradient lips, straight brows. And then the “aegyo sal”—as in cute eye bags or the puffy under-eye area which could now be highlighted or applied with makeup to add to one’s youthful look.
25 Korean salons—Korean hairstylists have turned the art of cutting hair into a performance. At the time they opened, Tony & Jackey and Park Jun’s Beauty Lab jazzed up our salon experience with digital perm, standout idol-inspired hairstyles and coloring.
26 Matchy-matchy couple outfits—Also known as the Couple Look, this style trend isn’t just for couples who want to brag about their relationship status, but also a fun way for friends and family to exercise collective creativity in coming up with similar outfits.
27 Idol fashion—It’s a huge marketing strategy for fashion brands to dress up celebs for events, TV shows and the red carpet. When stars and their looks go viral, it’s eye candy for the fans and fashionistas.
28 Korean street style—Glossies and social media have expanded their world from covering not just the four fashion capitals, but also documenting sartorial inspirations from the streets of Seoul.
29 Apps and websites for Korean media content—Viu is just one of several apps in the region that have made binge-watching SK shows easier, not to mention legal and with better subtitles.
30 “Aegyo”—The combination of cute baby voice, facial expressions and hand gestures can sometimes be annoying, though effective and fascinating to see on K-pop idols.
31 The finger heart—No, it’s not a weird cross, or a way to tell somebody to back off. Pressing the thumb to the forefinger means sending your love.
32 Children’s animation—South Korea has produced animated TV programs and content that have become very popular with kids worldwide, including “Pororo the Little Penguin,” “Tayo the Little Bus,” “Pucca,” “Canimals” and “Pinkfong.”