It’s a city at the forefront of modern culture. At the center of the boom in all things K-Pop and K-Drama, which has seen the group BTS become the biggest-selling band in the world and movie “Parasite” pick up the Academy Award for best picture.
Through a heady mix of cutting-edge technology and a deep respect for traditions, Seoul has become one of the 21st century’s most tantalizing and important cities.
It’s a place where boy and girl bands use the metaverse to meet their fans in virtual worlds and older residents embrace new technology to showcase their city’s historic, storied ways.
A YouTube sensation
YouTube sensation Jaejae is perhaps the best-qualified person in Seoul to help understand this phenomenon and how it has come to pass. She interviews the biggest stars from Korean music, movies and film on the MMTG YouTube channel, which has almost two million subscribers. In the process, she too has become a star in Korea.
Alongside Hollywood A-listers, her videos include chats with rapper J-Hope, boy band Tomorrow x Together and the group Seventeen. Their fame, like Jaejae’s, has grown wildly in recent years, partly a result of Korea’s ongoing love affair with new technology and how it can develop connections with fans, both at home and overseas.
Koreans’ use of the internet, and social media in particular, has helped fuel Seoul’s development into a global cultural powerhouse, believes Jaejae.
“The people like fascinating things, I think,” she says. “They take a picture or a video… everything they take and upload through the Internet, that content spreads around the world. So that’s why K-Pop or K-Drama is spreading to the world.”
Jaejae describes herself as part of the M-Z Generation, bridging the gap between Millennials and the younger Generation Z. She is also keen to stress that the world she represents is part of a new way of seeing things, something she dubs “Newtro.” This concept, she says, blends a love for the latest things social media and the Internet have to offer with a fascination with all things 1980s and 1990s.
“Retro plus new: newtro,” she explains succinctly. “The word is spreading in Korea.”
It’s on show, she explains, in the brash and hugely popular gaming parlors, where new and old games mingle and locals spend hours playing new titles in a resolutely old school setting. It’s evident, too, outside Seoul’s beautiful Gyeongbokgung Palace, where young people dress in traditional hanbok dresses, all the better to feel closer to the history of their hometown.