How many of you remember the KBS World and Arirang TV days? These channels are the reason why a base now exists for South Korean culture lovers and its entertainment industry. Even after those channels became unavailable, the love for South Korean culture had endured in the hearts of some fans.
As the social media became our main medium of connecting with the world's cultures, it created a bigger crowd of K-lovers who discovered an entire niche of exceptional Korean content that, in the end, became a life-changing experience for these people. The once-underestimated culture is now one of the leaders in the film, TV, and music industry.
Even a few years ago, the existence of this fanbase was relatively unknown. What many of us were unaware of was that there is a 12-year-old organisation, BD K-Family, that has been actively trying to promote South Korean culture and strengthen Bangladeshi and South Korean diplomatic and cultural relationships.
BD K-Family was officially formed in 2010 by three individuals; Tashnuva Zahan – Founder – Tina Zahan – Co-Founder – and Saiful Islam – President. Since the beginning, the trio has solely aimed to uplift and appreciate the South Korean lifestyle, beliefs, and culture through various activities arranged by their organisation.
During a chit-chat with the three organisers of BD K-Family, the Business Standard got a peek inside the lives of these incredible fans. They shared the struggles of running such a group in Dhaka.
"I think I was three years old or a kindergartener at the time. We watched all kinds of television programmes in our household. Besides being Bollywood fans and fans of other South Asian programmes, my sister Tashnuva and I became fans of South Korean culture through these channels," said Tina.
"We started this group because we were passionate to find out more. We did not think this would be so huge. I'm a lawyer and I barely have the time for so many things. But I also believe, when someone is passionate about something, they need others with whom they can connect and share their passion with. Our goal was to create a platform where people could come together and become friends and share their love for the K-community."
"Young people come to our events and find a platform to showcase their talent, and to find people with similar tastes. So, we make sure we find some time out of our busy schedules to arrange gatherings and events, so that these young people get to celebrate everything they are passionate about," said Saiful.
BD K-Family began its journey as a regular Facebook group with about five members. The intention was to interact with people with similar interests. As it started to gain more traction, the trio arranged meetups with these fans where they would all share and celebrate their mutual love for K-entertainment.
The social media era had just begun, but internet speeds were not fast enough, nor was it available in every household. Thus, in these meetups, the K-pop fans would exchange their latest downloads.
When membership of the group started growing, many wanted to sing and perform their favourite K-pop songs. Although BD K-Family would book an entire restaurant and reserve a small corner for those performances, it was not enough.
As the number of members grew, so did the demands for annual meet ups, more space, and more events to bring the community closer. The group presently has more than 50, 000 members to date.
"The crowds grew! We then started booking bigger convention centres. These meetups evolved into full-scale events," said Tashnuva.
BD K-Family independently organises various events throughout the year but they also have an understanding with the South Korean Embassy in Bangladesh.
"The embassy saw how passionate we were about South Korean culture and we developed an understanding with them. They have helped us in many ways. They have helped us understand their culture better, taught us volunteer work, and also helped us financially when arranging these events," said Tina.
"We do not want to hurt South Korean sentiments in any way, that is why we always maintain full communication with the embassy and inform them of all our plans," added Tashnuva.
BD K-Family is not limited to arranging K-meets only. They celebrate the birth of the BD K-Family and BD Korean Festival – where Korean culture is presented in its entirety. The South Korean Embassy collaborates with them on most occasions.
K-lovers, however, are everywhere in Bangladesh and not just Dhaka. BD K-Family wishes to organise events across the country. During the Dhaka K-Meet 6.0, visitors from other districts came to join the event. Parents accompanied their children, and many brought their cousins and other family members too.
BD K-Family is currently planning three more events. Their highlight will be the 'BD Korean Festival 2022'. They have not yet decided on the dates but are planning to arrange it around October or November this year.