Globalization and Popular Culture: Selected Themes

Globalization and Pop Culture

This story gathers information about selected cases that help to understand the relationship between pop culture and globalization. How do local populations around the world relate to `foreignness' presented to them in the form of pop culture? What role does pop culture play with respect to globalization? More importantly, how does pop culture help us to understand globalization?

 


Case: Korean Pop Culture in Asia

Hallyu, or "Korean Wave"

The term Hallyu refers to the growing popularity of Korean popular culture in East and Southeast Asia within the last decade. Hallyu initially began with Korean TV dramas (soap operas, "K-drama"), and the term started to appear in mass media reports that discussed their popularities in China and Japan. Other genres of pop culture including music ("K-pop") and movies were immediately included in the "wave." Within a few years, the phenomenon expanded to several countries in Southeast Asian region, and South Korean tourism has capitalized on its popularity.

One of the most famous TV drama said to have ignited the "wave" was Gyeoul Yeonga (English title: Winter Sonata) of Korea Broadcasting System (KBS), a public broadcaster that is South Korea's one of three largest and influential media organization.

The drama had drawn tourists from Japan in size that was unprecedented in South Korea's history (see also Kim, Agrusab, Leed, and Chon 2007). With this, its filming locations began to be officially promoted by the South Korean government as tourist sites. This map is of Namiseom (Nami island), which is one of several locations where Gyeoul Yeonga was filmed. It is one of several "hallyu maps."

 

tourist map
[Source: Map of a filming site of 'Winter Sonata'. Korea Sparkling, official website of Korea Tourism Organization (KTO)]

 

The map below was produced by Seoul Metropolitan Government. It points to filming locations of several TV dramas that are in Seoul. According to a press release, the map shows a total of 17 sites, has English, Japanese and Chinese versions, and is being distributed through tourist information centers and travel agencies. Comments about the "demise" of hallyu have been on a gradual rise. But it remains the single most important theme that drives contemporary South Korean tourist industry (for example, see also 2008 Seoul Hallyu Festival).



[Source: Han, Aran. Map makes surfing Korean Wave easy for Seoul's tourists. August 25, 2007. Korea.net, official governmental homepage managed by Korean Culture and Information Services (KOIS) of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism]

 

Reports and Researches

Cho Hae-Joang. 2005. Reading the "Korean Wave" as a Sign of Global Shift. Korea Journal 45(4):147-182. [PDF available for download. Use Internet Explorer]

  • Abstract: In this paper, I examined the discourse surrounding the "Korean Wave," within South Korea media from 2001 till 2005. The cultural nationalist, the neoliberal, and the postcolonial camps were drawing the discursive terrain of the Korean Wave, sometimes clashing and at other times engaging each other in strategic compromises. The initial diverse discourses congealed and merged in their concentration on economic profit later on, which is indicative of a neoliberal turn in the 2000s Korea. The media technology revolution and global capitalism prepared the system for the manufacture of cultural products and circulation within Asia, and formed the coeval space of capitalist Asia. However, the diverse images and texts circulating within Asia were providing new opportunities to construct an alternate consciousness through the sharing of popular culture. Non-Western societies which used to measure their modernities against Western standards entered the new stage of subject formation.

Han, Kyung-Koo. 2006. From Housewives to Butterflies: Hallyu and the Fantastic Journey to Korea (Hahm Hanhee and Heo In-sun). Korea Journal 46(2):269-274. [PDF available for download. Use Internet Explorer]

Kim, Dae Sung. 2005. Hallyu: How Far Has It Come? The Korea Foundation Newsletter 14(4).

Kim, Sang-Bae. 2007. Hallyu-ui mae-ryuk-gwa Dong-Asia munwha network (Hallyu's Appeal and East Asian Cultural Network). Se-gye Jung-chi (Global Politics), 28(1):190-233.[PDF available for download. Written in Korean]

Kim Hyun Mee. 2005. Korean TV Dramas in Taiwan: With an Emphasis on the Localization Process. Korea Journal 45(4):183-205. [PDF available for download. Use Internet Explorer]

  • Abstract: Most research on the Korean pop culture has had a tendency to emphasize the universal superiority of Korean culture or the economic effect of the phenomenon based on economism. This paper aims to provide a detailed empirical case on the concrete processes of distribution, circulation, and consumption of Korean pop culture in Taiwan using the specific case of Korean TV dramas. Taiwan has been one of the biggest importer of Korean dramas. The images delivered through the Korean TV dramas have very much influenced the Taiwanese to view contemporary Korean society as a country of modern and urban elegance, and woman-centeredness. This article also stresses that the popularity of the Korean drama can be understood in the context of the specific reprocessing and consumption system in Taiwan to reduce the high economic risk of the business. One way of adapting that has been developed to maximize profits and minimize the risks of the cultural industry is the accompaniment of various localization processes. The localization process sometimes entails the "hybridity" of the Korean drama's text as well.

Kim, Young-Duk. 2007. Ilbon-nae Bangsong Hallyu Hyungwhang-gwa Chunmang (Status and Future of Television Hallyu in Japan). Korean Broadcasting Institute

Yin, Kelly Fu Su, and Kai Khiun Liew. 2005. Hallyu in Singapore: Korean Cosmopolitanism or the Consumption of Chineseness?. Korea Journal 45(4):206-232. [PDF available for download. Use Internet Explorer]

  • Abstract: The export of Korean dramas in the late 1990s sparked off a palpable craze for Korean cultural commodities in early 2000. This popular cultural phenomenon known as hallyu has seen a surge in interest in Korean culture expressed through study of the Korean language and understanding of the culture through travel. Heterogeneous in nature, this phenomenon re-invents itself to suit local taste cultures and pre-existing modes of consumption and distribution. In this paper, a case study of Korean popular culture consumption in Singapore demonstrates the complexities of hallyu as it intersects with and challenges the pre-dominance of "Chinese"-based popular culture, while remaining at the same time, very much a form of "Chinese" consumption.

Other Links

Blog: Students of a Korean Wave class, University of Pennsylvania

  • Quote: "The phenomenon of hallyu may be some unique confluence of economics, politics and creativity, but discourse of that nature obscures the fact that Koreans are simply making more media that is enjoyable to consume. In that sense, hallyu has been effective in expanding the audience and increasing the amount of regional and global exposure of the many, talented Korean artists" (University of Pennsylvania EALC 198/598 students, Spring 2006 & 2007. 10 Apr. 2008. http://koreanpopculture.blogspot.com/).

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