Vietnam’s soft power in entertainment industry

When arts are not perceived properly, soft power in cultural aspect will be limited.
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In the early of the 21st century, the Hallyu has overwhelmed the S-shaped Vietnam with a number of small screen masterpieces such as “Winter Sonata”, “Autumn in my heart”, “Meteor garden”,… Besides television, the Korean music also emerged as a phenomenon, conquering many Asian markets including Vietnam.

vietnams soft power in entertainment industry
The Hallyu has overwhelmed Asia. (Photo: Vox)

According to the Korea Foundation for International Cultural Exchange, Vietnam ranked 4th across Asia in the index of public admiration for the Hallyu. While the generations of late 80s and early 90s were passionate about DBSK, Super Junior, Big Bang, the Vietnamese millenials continued to be fascinated by gen 3 young bands like BTS, Black Pink,…

The influence of movies, music and books enhanced the soft power of countries like South Korea or the US. The combination of national culture factors with popular trends helped improve the position of a nation in the mind of people in other countries.

For example, thanks to the promotion of arts, the image of beautiful, talented, compassionate film characters has made Korean people to be a standard. That is the reason why the comparison “as beautiful as Korean actor” has become popular in the Vietnamese’s daily life.

Regardless of whether or not the frenzy of a foreign culture is right, we need to look at the fact that our entertainment industry is lacking a national identity that attracts young people. While traditional arts such as “chèo”, “quan họ” or “cải lương” do not show the appeal to the majority of youngsters, commercial movies or modern music have almost no Vietnamese features.

The K-pop was so successful that many Vietnamese entertainment companies simulated to educate their trainees. However, most of showmen have ignored the importance of “Vietnamese characteristics” of the band following the Korean model. K-pop bands are still releasing new albums or appearing in liveshows, so why do Vietnamese audience needs more domestic “copies”?

Vietnamese arts are lacking a special “colour” and have not yet taken advantage of message of culture through media products. Every year, Vietnamese commercial movies which are produced mainly based on emotional, humorous stories, lack of high quality art and especially the soul of Vietnam.

There are two current problems that raised thoughts about the Vietnamese cinema. Firstly, historical movies are falling into oblivion. The Vietnam Feature Film Studio lacks state-funded investment, while private companies often avoid this kind of movie as it is difficult to make profits. As a result, every year, Vietnam only produces 1-2 movies to screen on special celebrations.

Secondly, Vietnam’s commercial movies which are being screened every month at cinemas can be applied to the context of any country. The script’s content does not attach the importance of promoting the national culture.

In order to change this, the government should take short-term and long-term measures including the active investment and commercialization of art films to increase the potential to reach mass audience, or application of “quota” policy with annually increasing percentage to encourage the development of domestic cinema.

Most importantly, education needs to have a more serious and respectful view of arts. At the moment, we are putting a heavy emphasis on science subjects and underestimating literary and aesthetic values. When arts are not perceived properly, soft power in cultural aspect will be limited. Therefore, should cinema, music, painting courses be taught in K-12 curriculum?

It is unquestionable that soft power strengthens a nation’s position. In order to promote the cultural beauty of Vietnam, we need to change substantially the education as well as the awareness of entertainment industry.

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Phuong Mai