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Global South Korea and the K-Pop Phenomenon  

Crystal S. Anderson

K-pop is a form of South Korean popular music directed at a global audience that fuses Korean and foreign musical elements. While “idols” (performers who sing, dance, and engage in extra-musical activity) are the most visible, K-pop encompasses a wide variety of genres. Emerging in the wake of a major financial crisis that prompted a restructuring of the Korean economy, K-pop benefits from increased freedom in cultural expression, support by the Korean government, and a global cultural movement that reaches East Asia and beyond. The first K-pop groups appeared in the early 1990s, drawing on hip-hop and rhythm and blues popular in the United States. The use of rap and b-boying/breakdance style, along with emotional vocals of R&B, became staples for first-generation “idol” groups. Initially presenting an approachable image, they later took on more mature concepts before they disbanded in the late 1990s. Several continue to influence the K-pop music scene, even as subsequent generations of K-pop artists emerge. These idol groups have diversified their images as well as their musical styles. Several solo artists have emerged, and hip-hop groups continue to participate. All of this musical activity is governed by Korean agencies, the largest of which are responsible for the creation and management of “idols,” while others encourage indie artists and still others are led by K-pop artists themselves. In addition to the promotional strategies of agencies, media, both professional and fan-driven, play a large role in the global spread of K-pop. The fans themselves are also active participants, acting as both audience members and content producers.

Article

Korean Popular Culture in Argentina  

Grit Kirstin Koeltzsch

The cultural movement known as Hallyu (or Korean Wave) and the transnational popularity of K-pop music and dance have long been established as an important phenomenon in the global world, including in Latin America. This form of South Korean contemporary popular culture has had a major impact in Argentina, especially among the young population. Despite the cultural and geographical distance, young Argentines incorporate aspects of K-pop culture in their daily lives, including music, dance, K-drama, and food, and some of them even try to learn the Korean language. Thanks to technology, they perceive, almost in real time, what happens on the Asian continent and connect with fans and fandoms, not only in Korea but also in other parts of the world. This shows that globalization is not a process of homogenization; these young Latin American people also take the Korean Wave as motivation to learn about transpacific history and cultures. Furthermore, K-pop is a visual phenomenon, and dance plays an important role. The dance routines or choreographies are complex, and emphasize the music. Dance definitely transcends language barriers. Thus, young Argentines explore new aspects of corporality through dance performances. In their spare time, they organize dance contests and activities, and so generate spaces for their own articulation. It is particularly interesting to draw attention to gender role performance and the way in which local youth react to the influence of a transgressive gender identity performed by Koreans, in the context of a strongly patriarchal and heteronormative Argentine society. It shows that body/ dance articulation is not just a tool for creativity but also for disputing gender norms and stereotypical gender images in our society.

Article

The Korean Wave and Korean Dramas  

Hyejung Ju

For the past two decades, the Korean Wave has been recognized in many parts of the world, and has articulated dynamic junctures of globalization, regionalization, and localization in the realms of media and popular culture. Due to online media platforms such as streaming services, television content has been diversifying and increasing its transnational circulation. More recently, the outbound scope of K-drama and K-pop has further reached dispersed global audiences, most of whom are not Korean media consumers or fans, thanks to active use of social media, such as YouTube, in transnational media consumption. The Korean Wave can be a meaningful contra-flow in transnational pop culture. Moreover, the Korean Wave is an evolutionary cultural flow, as traced in the history of its growth. The Wave has been experiencing continuities and discontinuities in its stream for years, along with its popularity cycle, and interestingly disjuncture has shaped it differently. A set of studies of the Korean Wave should map out the presence of the Wave in the big picture of cultural globalization, beyond the pre-existing geocultural divisions. The very recent Korean Wave drives not only the flow of various kinds of content and formats but also reciprocal interchanges of diverse levels of human, financial, technological, and cultural elements; this reconstructs implied meanings of the Korean Wave and its globalizing phenomena.

Article

Global South Korea in 21st-Century Asian American Literature  

Na-Rae Kim

Since the start of the 21st-century, a general consensus has emerged that South Korea is a “global” phenomenon. Growing references to celebrated aspects of Korean culture and society—such as K-pop or Korean food—in literature, television, video, and film index a perceptual shift regarding South Korea. However, Korean American literature has tirelessly interrogated Korea’s place in the world, tracing and exposing often elided links and histories upon which its current prominence depends. Attending to Korean American and a growing spectrum of Asian American literary imaginations of South Korea in the 21st century illustrates the particularity of the nation’s curious global presence. Doing so also allows for an examination of the fissures between the perception and reality of global South Korea, of current assumptions about globalization, and of non-US-centric sites of affiliations notable in Asian American literature. Writers including Jimin Han, Patricia Park, Krys Lee, Jane Jeong Trenka, Maurene Goo, and May Lee-Yang exhibit divergent patterns and approaches and together highlight multiple facets of the structural entanglements that comprise global South Korea. These include changing patterns and motives for migration to and from Korea; redefining “Koreanness”; the complexities of “globalization,” and the oft-celebrated Korean Wave, or hallyu.