By Eun Mee Kim, Professor, The Graduate School of International Studies, Ewha Womans University
This research is an attempt to understand the explosive consumption of South Korean cultural exports in Asia, and its reproduction in South Korea. The more commonly available explanations about the success of Hallyu, which cannot adequately explain why Hallyu has taken Asia by storm while popular cultures from other Asian nations have not, include the following: (1) cultural proximity; (2) common historical and cultural legacy; (3) common 20th century experience of rapid industrialization in the region; (4) rapid increase in intra-regional trade, investment, tourism, etc.; and (5) the development of the information technology (IT) industry and other modern industries in South Korea.
We offer three alternative scenarios to help explain Hallyu’s success using global and local cultural explanations. First, Hallyu is analyzed from the perspective of an alternative form of globalization of culture from the South implying the diversification of world cultures. Neither rejecting nor reacting to the dominant cultures of the West, we postulate that Hallyu is more an alternative and revision of the US-dominated cultural globalization. Second, taking a more region-bound perspective, we analyze whether Asia’s history of colonialism and the fight for supremacy between two regional super powers –i.e., Japan and China--, have led South Korea to become a more palatable cultural hegemon in the region. Third, we use the Korean concept of “Hanp'uri” (dissolution of “Han”) to understand how Hallyu has been embraced in South Korea as a source of national pride and has helped its reproduction. Finally, we argue that the future of Hallyu will rest on whether or not it can become identified as a new world culture with distinct traits of its own and enrich the world’s cultural scene.
Keywords: Hallyu (Korean Wave), globalization of culture, hybrid culture, Han, Hanp’uri
Eun Mee Kim: Professor, former Dean of the Graduate School of International Studies, and former Dean of the International Education Institute at Ewha Womans University. Prior to coming to Ewha, she was an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Southern California, and a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University and Brown University. She has published many books and articles including Corporate Restructuring and Networks in Korea After the Financial Crisis: Intercorporate Networks among Business Groups and Networks between Banks and Firms in Korea (2005), Big Business, Strong State: Collusion and Conflict in South Korean Development (1997), and edited The Four Asian Tigers: Economic Development and the Global Political Economy Development (1998). Her current research includes outward foreign direct investment of South Korea, multiculturalism and international communities in Seoul, and ODA policy.
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Sponsor(s): Center for Korean Studies
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