Doobo Shim’s article on the spread of Korean culture across East and Southeast Asia outlines many of the processes and explanations as to why Korean culture specifically became so pervasive among other cultures. The liberalization of media played a major role in directing Korean culture towards an outward expansion. They accepted the importation of American movies (under pressure) but soon found that these imports had all but replaced their domestic Korean productions. Stories about Korea became blase, and it wasn’t until the release of Sopyeonje, a movie which in many ways paralleled the struggle between Korean media/culture and Hollywood. The nostalgia for simpler times and a truly Korean identity became a rallying point in an increasingly directionless, uniformly global world. From this standpoint, the rationale behind making culture an explicit export and commodity of the South Korean government because it affords them the ability to compete with other national products through cultural production. They turned to Hollywood, which for years had been a huge tool for American cultural hegemony, and adopted some of the styles and modeled much of their own media systems after American ones. Soon afterwards, Korean dramas, Korean pop, and Korean food became well-known outside of Korea and entrenching themselves within other Asian nations’ popular culture. While the article was officially published in 2006, the rise of Korean culture did not end then and did not end with Asia.
As I am reading this in 2016, Gangnam Style, a K-pop song released by Psy in 2016 remains at the top of the most viewed videos on YouTube with over 2.2 billion views. Nickelodeon is currently airing a show about girls trying to form their own K-pop band. Korean renditions of trap music, a very American (specifically Southern/Atlantan) genre, are adopted by Korean artists like Keith Ape who in turn become popular within the United States due to the virality now afforded from internet exposure. Clearly, it seems that Korean culture is not just strictly limited to the Asian region but has since expanded its reach and exposure from when Doobo Shim wrote this article.
I, for one, am curious as to how the Korean government utilizes the internet in order to promote their culture. Certainly, putting their media productions available on the internet help spread their culture. There are many Korean dramas found on YouTube with many fans who often have no understanding of the Korean language. The spread of Korean artists is all the more easier since the internet has created such a global network, allowing people to interact with each other across incredible distances. E-sports have become a major commodity and a major part of the entertainment industry in South Korea, and the Korean e-Sports Association is a body founded by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism in 2000 that manages e-sports in South Korea and is probably a major reason why South Korea finds such success in e-sports.
I would also like to examine how we engage with Korean culture today and if there is a depersonalization of the culture; that is, do we celebrate Korean culture without celebrating Korean people? On the other hand, is celebrating Korean popular culture the same as celebrating people, or is it celebrating the Korean media industry created by the government? The internet has certainly allowed for unprecedented exposure to Korean pop culture, but I do wonder to what extent does it truly represent Korea? Does Hollywood represent us?