48 Hybridity and the Rise of Korean Popular Culture in Asia

Doobo Shim

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. 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.' According to Hollywood Reporter, ‘Korea has transformed itself from an embattled cinematic backwater into the hottest film market in Asia.'

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. 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 ...

Get The Globalization Reader, 5th Edition now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.