On Sunday night, there was widespread rejoicing when the South Korean film "Parasite" received the Academy Award for best picture along with several other awards. Not only was this the first such win for a movie in a language other than English, but to many it represented a long-sought victory for Korean popular culture.

It's not the first such victory. In the past decade, Korean music and TV shows have exploded in global popularity. The Korean band BTS is the first since the Beatles to release three Billboard No. 1 albums in a single year. Their U.S. concerts are wildly popular, and their fandom transcends both region and ethnicity. China is crazy for K-pop, too. And Korean drama programs, already hugely popular across East Asia, are making inroads around the world.

But the Korean wave isn't just a global cultural fad; it's the capstone of a unique and remarkable national growth story.