KOR60 - WK1 - 2 - Shim, Doobo - Hybridity and the Rise of Korean Popular Culture in Asia

KOR60 - WK1 - 2 - Shim, Doobo - Hybridity and the Rise of Korean Popular Culture in Asia

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Hybridity and the rise of Korean popular culture in Asia Doobo Shim N ATIONAL U NIVERSITY OF S INGAPORE Over the past few years, an increasing amount of Korean popular cultural content – including television dramas, movies, pop songs and their associated celebrities – has gained immense popularity in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other East and Southeast Asian countries. 1 News media and trade magazines have recognized the rise of Korean popular culture in Asia by dubbing it the ‘Korean wave’ ( Hallyu or Hanryu in Korean). The Associated Press reported in March 2002: ‘Call it “kim chic”. All things Korean – from food and music to eyebrow-shaping and shoe styles – are the rage across Asia, where pop culture has long been dominated by Tokyo and Hollywood’ (Visser, 2002). According to Hollywood Reporter , ‘Korea has transformed itself from an embattled cinematic backwater into the hottest film market in Asia’ (Segers, 2000). Yet a few years ago Korean popular culture did not have such export capacity, and was not even critically acclaimed by scholars. For example, The Oxford History of World Cinema , published in 1996, is alleged to have covered ‘every aspect of international film-making’ but does not make any reference to Korean cinema, although it pays tribute to Taiwanese, Hong Kong, Chinese and Japanese films (Nowell-Smith, 1996). 2 Korean music was also ignored by researchers, as can be seen in the following comment in World Music: The Rough Guide , published in 1994: ‘The country has developed economically at a staggering pace, but in terms of popular music there is nothing to match the remarkable contemporary sounds of Indonesia, Okinawa, or Japan’ (Kawakami and Fisher, 1994). The tremendous disparity between such evaluations as noted above, and the recent success of the Korean media, has stimulated Media, Culture & Society © 2006 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi), Vol. 28(1): 25–44 [ISSN: 0163-4437 DOI: 10.1177/0163443706059278]
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me to learn, theorize and explain their growth and increased circulation in Asia. The major frame of reference in international communication research today is globalization, a word that has become part of everyday vocabulary. The term refers to the process and context of the world becoming integrated, and it is most exuberantly used in corporate slogans. If we are satisfied with this uncritical discourse of a seamless globe, our under- standing of globalization will be entrenched in the image of Chinese (or Thai) people patronizing Starbucks – an image that appears on a regular basis in the mainstream media (see, for example, Truehart, 1998). There are roughly three strains of globalization discourse. The first approach views globalization as an outgrowth of cultural imperialism following the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) discussions of the 1970s. According to this approach, forces of globalization are usually American, and they subjugate weaker, national/ cultural identities. While this approach has retained considerable resonance
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