On March 26, President Barack Obama gave a speech at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul and made note of “Hallyu,” the Korean word for the spread of Korean pop culture around the world.
Speaking in front of hundreds of Korean students, Obama discussed the quickly evolving “digital era” and how social media networks are changing the world. He said, “In our digital age, we can connect and innovate across borders like never before – with your smart phones and Twitter and Me2Day and Kakao Talk. It’s no wonder so many people around the world have caught the Korean Wave, Hallyu.”
President Obama also praised the quick progress Korea has made as a country, lauding the efforts it made in turning a war-torn country into one of the fastest developing nations in the world. “I know that there are those who deride our vision. There are those who say ours is an impossible goal that will be forever out of reach. But to anyone who doubts the great progress that is possible, I tell them, come to Korea. Come to this country, which rose from the ashes of war, a country that rose from the ashes of war, turning rubble into gleaming cities,” he said.
His speech quickly spread online, especially among Korean netizens, for his mentions of not just “Hallyu,” but also two Korean SNS services, Me2Day and Kakao Talk. Even officials at each company seemed surprised by his comment, welcoming the unexpected free publicity they gained through the President’s remark.
Kakao Talk is a smart phone application that allows for free text messaging around the world. It has more than 42 million users, with nearly 20% of them coming from outside of Korea. Me2Day is the Korean equivalent of Twitter, run by NHN, and has approximately 9 million users worldwide.
President Obama is on a three-day trip to Seoul to attend the “2012 Nuclear Security Summit.” The two-day summit has attracted leaders of 53 countries and over 3,700 reporters, making it the largest diplomatic event Korea has ever hosted. You can read the full transcript of President Obama’s speech here!