From the highest points of Psy’s and BTS’s popularity, K-pop fans worldwide have continued to experience the Korean Wave through different media, contexts, and perspectives. In search of the intersections between the Hallyu phenomenon and femininity, this article investigates K-pop women singers’ media presentations and performances that are critical in understanding women’s positionality in contemporary South Korea. In this paper, we will focus particularly on the recent configuration of ssenunni (strong sister) that evokes a feeling of empowerment in young women K-pop fans. Examining how the diverse and often contradictory messages of women’s liberation and freedom have been produced, disseminated, and consumed, using the strong femininity implied by the notion of ssen-unni before and after Hallyu, we argue that the contemporary representations of femininity by women artists in the K-pop world reveal not only limitations, but also potentials in the changing cultural topography of Korean society.
Due to the close but complicated relationship between the Japanese and Korean music industries, J-pop and K-pop have several significant commonalities and differences. By analyzing the transformation of K-pop in tandem with Japanese influences through a convergence of political economy in terms of historical approach and textual analysis, this paper identifies several key elements involved in the growth of K-pop. It does not attempt to determine the major reasons for the success of K-pop, and/or the failure (or low degree of popularity) of J-pop in global markets. Instead, it comparatively discusses several major features—including idol production systems, copyright issues, and hybridity—of these two popular music genres, thereby mapping out J-pop’s influences and the remnants of such influences in the K-pop sphere, as well as the ways in which K-pop has become a model for J-pop. It aims to investigate the contemporary cultural stages and transition of popular music in Korea occurring within the unfolding logic of cultural globalization, known as hybridization.
This article explores the social, global, and technological conjuncture exemplified by the globalization processes of Korean webtoons—a portmanteau of Web and cartoon. Based on 12 interviews with a variety of actors working in the Korean webtoon industry, including publishers, agencies, and platform providers, this article discusses diverse global and local factors that articulate and complicate transnational media flows in the new media ecology. In this paper, I explain the driving forces behind the global expansion of Korean webtoons in terms of Korea’s small-scale domestic market, the growth of smartphone penetration, the emergence of a paid service model, and the rise of China’s pan-entertainment strategy. Focusing on the mutually constitutive relation between global and local, I also suggest interpreting Korean webtoons’ overseas expansion as an example of the disjunctive globalization process and decentralized transnational cultural power.
The global popularity of the Korean K-pop group BTS, backed by its devoted fanbase ARMY, continues to raise questions surrounding transnational and transcultural flows of hybridized popular cultures in an era of new media technologies. Drawing on theories of transcultural fandom, this article examines BTS within, and as a product of, these hybridized transcultural flows of content and identity. Utilizing a mixed-methods approach, the popularity of BTS is explored in the context of fans’ social media use and in their identification with BTS through the group’s online content, music, and image of authenticity. The use of social media is significant not only in terms of access to BTS content but to fannish practices of consuming such content. Flows of meaning and affect between BTS and fans are also mediated through social media, suggesting that hybridized popular culture is circulated not only through transnational flows of content but also transcultural constructions of affective investment and identity.
This paper offers an intermedial and intercultural reading of The Handmaiden (2016), a film adapted from Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith (2002) by Park Chan-wook. Park’s transcultural screen adaptation, representative of a post-colonial, hybridizing trend in Hallyu, transfers Waters’ Victorian setting to the Japanese-colonized Korea during the 1930s, expanding the novel’s focus on class and gender to issues of race, equality, and power. Park prompts his two female protagonists, a Japanese lady and a Korean handmaiden, to decolonize the psychic and social structures of a pro Japanese mansion in the process of becoming-maids that effectively decouples the predominant power/class relationships in its closed environment. Through their successful performance as equal participants in a satiric, self-reflexive pastiche of the Hollywood aesthetic, Park dramatizes the politics of hybridity and the politics of gender, class, and colonialism, providing a hybrid third space in the final scene of the film when the heroines sail to Shanghai. The Handmaiden demonstrates the dynamic force of Hallyu through its symbolic decolonization of Western cultural hegemony, its depiction of global and personal power shifts, and its new vision of the hybrid space.
This study analyzes how diasporic audiences engage with the transnational flows of Korean media and popular culture (Hallyu). Drawing on in-depth interviews with young Korean Canadian audience members in Vancouver, this study examines the diasporic reception of Hallyu. While growing up, the young people in this study were exposed to Korean media and popular culture in their immigrant families. However, they gradually became selective and critical audiences of Hallyu, and negotiated their identities and socialities through consuming this transnational cultural trend. This study offers insights into how a transnational cultural form is incorporated into the lives of its young diasporic audiences who have grown up negotiating different cultures. The study also contributes to articulating a diasporic perspective in the existing studies of Hallyu.
The story of a woman who pursues romance and marriage is popular source material in many cultures. “Chunhyang jeon” (The Tale of Chunhyang) is similar to “Cinderella,” in that each is a tale of a mistreated young woman who is presented with an opportunity to marry well and escape her situation. “The Tale of Chunhyang,” however, encompasses not only universal but also local themes. Chunhyang’s marriage above her social position suggests a serious challenge to Korea’s social stratification system, so knowledge of local practices is required to appreciate the rebellious message embedded in the text. This article investigates how the pendulum of interpretation has swung between the ubiquitous theme of love and the local message of political change through emancipation, by examining the earliest English translations of the story—“Chun Yang” (1889) by Horace Allen and “Choon Yang” (1917–1918) by James Gale. The translations do not simply restate the story but rather reinvent the hero and heroine to modulate Western readers’ engagement with Korean culture. This article explores how Western missionaries defined the literary meanings and values of “The Tale of Chunhyang” through translation practices, and how they reinvented Korean cultural identity in their representation of the tale in English.
This study examines the efforts of Korean picture brides to promote the upward mobility of their families in California from the 1910s to the 1930s. It analyzes special collections, oral histories, interviews, US government documents, contemporary studies, and newspapers to identify the specific characteristics of Korean picture brides in California and to shed light on their struggles to survive and expand their familial roles. The migration of Korean picture brides to California facilitated the development of unique nuclear families in California’s Korean community. Objectively analyzing the impact of the US historical context on Korean picture brides’ efforts to improve the socioeconomic status of their families, this study focuses on how these Korean women migrants diversified their roles in the face of California’s changing discriminatory environment. It finds that Korean families’ successful adjustment to life in California resulted from the varied and complex economic, educational, and emotional roles Korean picture brides adopted to facilitate their families’ upward mobility. In adjusting to life as active members of a marginalized community in early twentieth-century California, Korean picture brides exemplified the spirit of pioneer women, leveraging opportunity from adversity by embracing roles that had no precedent in traditional Korean families.