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South Korean Popular Culture and “Asia” in the New Millennium

More detail on this Friday’s talk at SOAS:

Friday, November 6th, 5pm, room G50 (main building)
Dr. Stephen Epstein, Victoria University of Wellington
“Asia! Asia!” – South Korean Popular Culture and “Asia” in the New Millennium

In 2007, the number of foreign nationals in South Korea surpassed 1,000,000 for the first time: labour migration has risen substantially since the 1990s, and more significantly, the last decade has seen an extraordinary surge in international marriages, most notably between Korean men and women from China, Vietnam and the Phillipines, with the rate in some rural counties reaching 40%. This new migration is in fact especially remarkable for being widespread in the rural heartland, precisely in that sector of the nation where South Korean discourse most often holds that its version of the “real Korea” still resides, and the striking increase in international marriage is thus providing a challenge to Korean ethnic nationalism’s long-cherished notion of the Korean people sharing a unitary bloodline (tanil minjok). In addition to the aforementioned trends, growing travel for Koreans within the larger region and a popular discourse that celebrates the success of hallyu (The Korean Wave) across Asia are all reconfiguring Korea’s understanding of its relationship with the outside world, bringing into relief South Korea’s encounter with the larger Asian region, and contributing to the reification of “Asia” as a concept in the Korean imagination. Inevitably, this recalibrated understanding is also being reflected in popular media. This seminar will highlight popular culture’s growing accommodation of “Asia” and an Asian regional identity within the larger social fabric. We will discuss a series of Korean television productions that draw attention to Korea’s interactions with the “foreign” generally, and “Asia” more specifically.

Speaker Bio:
stephen-epsteinStephen Epstein is the Director of the Asian Studies Programmae at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. He has published widely on contemporary Korean society and literature and has also translated numerous works of Korean and Indonesian fiction, including a recent co-translation with Yu Young-nam of Who Ate Up All the Shinga? (Columbia University Press), an autobiographical novel by Park Wan-suh. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming Complicated Currents: Soft Power and Media Flows in East Asia (Monash University Press).

(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.

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