It all started in the 1990s when a rapidly democratising South Korea started allowing broadcasts from the American Forces Network, which delivers programmes to US military personnel around the world. Hip-hop was regularly featured on the network, and its depiction of breakdancing captured the hearts of many Korean youths. By 2002 a Korean breakdance group called the Expression Crew won the international B-boy and B-girl competition known as Battle of the Year.
The South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism promotes breakdancing to the world as a prominent part of the nation’s cultural life, and there are even a number of government sponsored breakdancing competitions each year now. The focus and skill of these dancers is exacting, with years of training put into perfecting their moves and developing highly refined specialties. In the 2008 documentary Planet B-Boy, we see one South Korean dancer named Laser, who performs with the well-known breakdance crew Gamblerz, and is considered the best head-spinner on the planet. Another dancer in Gamblerz says of Laser that he’s “spent the past five or six years spinning on his head. He doesn’t really do anything else, and to be honest, he’s not that good at any other moves”.
As part of BBC World News’ series Heart of Korea, Jason Lai takes a look at breakdancing’s popularity in South Korea. Click the play button to start the video above.
Episode 2 of Heart of Korea screens on Friday 9 March at 0655GMT and again at 0755GMT, 1155GMT, 1250GMT, 1350GMT, 1455GMT and 1655GMT on BBC World News.
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