For Asians, throwing up a hand gesture in front of the camera comes as naturally as saying ‘cheese’ in the West. The most ubiquitous? The ‘V’ sign, which may have started as a symbol of victory or peace – before its influence become ingrained in pop culture.
The origin of the Asian ‘V’ sign, according to one theory, can be traced back to the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, when the hotly tipped American figure skater Janet Lynn took a tumble but, to everyone’s surprise, got up and flashed a wide smile. Later, she was seen throwing up the V – and the gesture soon became associated with sportsmanship and charm among the Japanese.
You could say the popularity of these hand gestures is a byproduct of Japanese kawaii cute culture, which is often seen as an emotional escape from the pressures of Japanese society. Such hand gestures soon became a full-fledged trend in Asia during the 1980s and ’90s, thanks in no small part to pop culture icons like Sailor Moon, who flashes her V sign horizontally for her signature pose.
But with K-pop taking the world by storm, we’re no longer throwing up the Vs. In recent years, a Korean import has become the gesture of choice: the ‘finger heart’. Formed by slightly overlapping the thumb and index finger into a heart shape, the gesture is believed to have originated with actress Kim Hye-soo in 2010.
Nowadays, every Asian heartthrob worth their salt is flashing the finger heart. Western celebrities have also caught on to the trend, and it’s become practically mandatory for Asian fans. During his 2016 Doctor Strange promotional tour in Korea, Benedict Cumberbatch was seen throwing up the sign for his fans – although it took the actor a little while to get the gesture right.
The most recent variation of the heart gesture was created by Chuu of Korean girl group Loona, who has taken to forming a circle with both hands and ‘biting’ into it like a hamburger, forming a heart shape as she does so.
But perhaps the most powerful – and surprising – supporter of the finger heart trend is none other than North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. During the September 2018 inter-Korean summit, the Supreme Leader and South Korean government officials were photographed by international media on the top of Mount Paektu, making finger hearts for the world… and just perhaps, for peace.