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Sociolinguistics of the Korean Wave: Hallyu and Soft Power

Samosir and Wee examine how the immensely popular Korean Wave (“K-wave”) also known as Hallyu is wielded as soft power through the use of communication for persuasion and attraction on the global stage. The Korean Wave refers to the global spread and popularity of South Korean culture, particularly its pop music (“K-pop”), serialised dramas (“K-dramas”) and films (“K-films”). Given the South Korean government’s involvement in providing funding and publicity, the Korean Wave raises interesting sociolinguistic questions about the relationship between artistry and citizenship, the use of social media in facilitating the consumption of cultural products, and, ultimately, the nature of soft power itself.

Studies of soft power have tended to come from the field of international relations. This book shows that sociolinguistics actually has a number of tools in its conceptual arsenal – such as indexicality, stance taking, affect, and styling – that can shed light on the Korean Wave as a form of soft power. As the first book-length sociolinguistic analysis of the Korean Wave and soft power, this book demonstrates how K-pop, K-dramas, and K-films have been able to encourage in consumers an anthropological stance towards all things Korean.

This volume will be of particular interest to students and scholars in sociolinguistics, political science, cultural studies, and Korean studies.

Nora Samosir is a professional theatre practitioner, having acted in more than 100 stage productions and also in films. Since 2018, she has been part of the duo Wandering Women with Bharatanatyam dancer Dr Nidya Shanthini Manokara creating stage performances as part of their practice-as-research project based on the lives of Draupadi and Mary Magdalene. Her other research strand, combining her undergraduate training in linguistics with her postgraduate interest in the performance of popular culture, is in Hallyu – Korean pop music, serialised dramas and films. Currently at LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore, she teaches Voice in the BA Acting and BA Musical Theatre programmes of the School of Dance and Theatre.

Lionel Wee is a Provost’s Chair Professor and linguist in the Department of English, Linguistics and Theatre Studies, National University of Singapore. He is interested in language policy (especially in Southeast Asia), the grammar of Singapore English, metaphorical discourse, and general issues in sociolinguistics and pragmatics. He sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of SociolinguisticsApplied LinguisticsInternational Journal of the Sociology of LanguageElements: World Englishes and Advances in World Englishes, among others. His recent books include Language, Space and Cultural Play: Theorizing Affect in the Semiotic Landscape (with Robbie Goh), and The Singlish Controversy: Language, Identity and Culture in a Globalizing World.


  1. The Korean Wave as a Sociolinguistic Phenomenon
  2. Soft Power Beyond the State
  3. The Soft Power of Hallyu: The State and the Creative Industries
  4. K-Pop: Product and Process
  5. K-dramas: Serialising Korean Culture
  6. K-films: Korean Culture as Movie Spectacle
  7. Beyond the Three Ks: Consuming Korea
  8. Towards a Better Understanding of Soft Power

Source: publisher’s website

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