Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review, vol. 3, no. 1 (2014)


The Globalization of K-pop: Local and Transnational Articulations of South Korean Popular Music

Editor’s Introduction
Guest Editor John Lie (University of California, Berkeley), 1

The global pop-music sensation of 2012 was Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” I am not sure if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the sheer proliferation of downloads and impersonations, copycat videos and parodic performances—the very constitution of virality—established K-pop (South Korean popular music) as a global pop culture phenomenon. … It is one thing to acknowledge the immense popularity of “Gangnam Style,” but would it be wise to see this as a harbinger of a larger phenomenon—namely, the globalization of South Korean popular culture?

Why Didn’t “Gangnam Style” Go Viral in Japan?: Gender Divide and Subcultural Heterogeneity in Contemporary Japan
John Lie (University of California, Berkeley), 6

Psy’s “Gangnam Style” was the global pop music and video sensation of 2012, but it failed to go viral in Japan. The involuted nature of the Japanese popular music industry—especially the imperative of indigenization—stunted the song’s dissemination. Simultaneously, the song failed to resonate with its potential base of Japanese K-pop fans, who valorized beauty and romance. In making sense of the Japanese reception of “Gangnam Style,” the author also analyzes the sources of both the Korean Wave and the anti-Korean Wave in Japan.
Keywords: Japan, South Korea, popular culture, Korean Wave, K-pop, J-pop, anti-Korean Wave, gender, subculture, popular music, soap opera, Internet, virality, cultural globalization

Hallyu across the Desert: K-pop Fandom in Israel and Palestine
Nissim Otmazgin and Irina Lyan (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), 32

This study examines the role that fan communities in Israel and Palestine play in the transcultural dissemination of Korean popular music, or “K-pop.” Based on in-depth interviews with fans, a survey of K-pop online communities, discourse analysis of online discussions, and participation in K-pop gatherings, this article examines the practice of K-pop, its localization and institutionalization, and its influence on the identities of fans. Special attention is given to the role of K-pop fans as cultural mediators who create necessary bridges between the music industry and local consumers and thus play a decisive role in globalizing cultures. Typically, literature on the globalization of popular culture either utilizes a top-down approach, depicting powerful media industries as making people across the world consume their products, or emphasizes a bottom-up resistance to the imposition of foreign cultures and values. This article suggests that popular culture consumption not only changes the lives of a few individuals but that these individuals may themselves play a decisive role in connecting globalized culture with local fandom.
Keywords: K-pop, Hallyu, Israel, Palestine, Middle East, fandom

K-pop Reception and Participatory Fan Culture in Austria
Sang-Yeon Sung (University of Vienna), 56

K-pop’s popularity and its participatory fan culture have expanded beyond Asia and become significant in Europe in the past few years. After South Korean pop singer Psy’s “Gangnam Style” music video topped the Austrian chart in October 2012, the number and size of K-pop events in Austria sharply increased, with fans organizing various participatory events, including K-pop auditions, dance festivals, club meetings, quiz competitions, dance workshops, and smaller fan-culture gatherings. In the private sector, longtime fans have transitioned from participants to providers, and in the public sector, from observers to sponsors. Through in-depth interviews with event organizers, sponsors, and fans, this article offers an ethnographic study of the reception of K-pop in Europe that takes into consideration local interactions between fans and Korean sponsors, perspectives on the genre, patterns of social integration, and histories. As a case study, this research stresses the local situatedness of K-pop fan culture by arguing that local private and public sponsors and fans make the reception of K-pop different in each locality. By exploring local scenes of K-pop reception and fan culture, the article demonstrates the rapidly growing consumption of K-pop among Europeans and stresses multidirectional understandings of globalization.
Keywords: K-pop, participatory fan culture, social media, national image, globalization, “Gangnam Style,” ethnography, Hallyu

K-pop in Korea: How the Pop Music Industry is Changing a Post-Developmental Society
Ingyu Oh (Korea University) and Hyo-Jung Lee (Yonsei University), 72

Korean popular songs, or kayo, are evolving from a musical genre created and performed only by Koreans into K-pop, a global musical genre produced and enjoyed by Koreans and those of other nationalities. This new development has revolutionized the perception of the popular music industry in Korea’s post-developmental society, as Korean children dream of becoming K-pop idols rather than entering traditionally esteemed careers in politics, medicine, or academia. The Korean government is also actively promoting Hallyu and K-pop, as though they constitute new export industries that could feed the entire nation in the twenty-first century. While the K-pop revolution has a lot to do with YouTube and other digital means of distributing music on a global scale, Korean television stations are now eager to tap into the booming market by showcasing live K-pop auditions in order to circumvent declining television loyalty among K-pop fans, who prefer watching music videos on YouTube. K-pop in Korea therefore illustrates three important aspects of social change: changes in social perceptions of the popular music industry, massive government support, and television stations actively recruiting new K-pop stars. All three aspects of social change reinforce one another and fuel the aspirations of young Koreans to become the next K-pop idols.
Keywords: South Korea, pop culture, K-pop, social change, mass media

New Research on Colonial Korea

Articles marked with (*) were first presented at the 2013 Cross-Currents Forum at Korea University

Editors’ Introduction, 95

Three of the four research articles on colonial Korea that appear in this issue developed out of talks originally presented at the 2013 Cross-Currents Forum at Korea University. The fourth article is supplemented by an online photo essay titled “Dance of Anguish: Poetic Texts from 1920s Korea,” available in the archived December 2013 issue of the Cross-Currents e-journal.

Abuse of Modernity: The Korean Medical Journal and Colonial Identity*
Mark Caprio (Rikkyo University), 97

Medical researcher Kubo Takeshi’s contributions to professional publications, such as Chōsen igakkai zasshi (The Korean medical journal), and more popular magazines, such as Chōsen oyobi Manshū (Korea and Manchuria), reflected many of the prejudicial attitudes that Japanese held toward Koreans during the first decade of colonial rule. His scholarship was based on biological determinist thinking, an approach developed by eighteenth-century European medical researchers to establish race, class, and gender hierarchies. For Kubo this approach provided a means for exploiting scientific inquiry to establish and manage Japanese superiority over Korean subjects in a more stable manner than one based on more malleable cultural differences. A people could adjust its customs or mannerisms to amalgamate with a suzerain culture but could not do so with hereditarily determined features, such as blood type or cranium size, shape, or weight. Practitioners, however, often linked the physical with the cultural by arguing that a people’s physical structure was a product of its cultural heritage. The subjectivity injected into this seemingly objective research methodology abused the lay community’s blind trust in modern science in two ways. First, it employed this inquiry to verify biased observations, rather than to uncover new truths; second, it altered the approach, rather than the conclusions, when this inquiry demonstrated the desired truths to be inaccurate. Biological determinism proved useful in substantiating a Japanese-Korean colonial relationship that acknowledged historically similar origins while arguing for the historically different evolutions of the two peoples.
Keywords: biological determinism, Chōsen igakkai zasshi, Kubo Takeshi, craniology, racial identity, Keijō Medical College, colonial history, Kubo Incident

Matters of Fact: Language, Science, and the Status of Truth in Late Colonial Korea*
Christopher P. Hanscom (University of California, Los Angeles), 126

This article addresses the status of the fact in literary and historical discourses in late colonial Korea, focusing on the elaboration of the relationship between scientific and literary truths primarily in the work of philosopher and critic Sŏ Insik (1906–?). It points to a growing tendency in late 1930s and early 1940s Korea to question the veracity of the fact (or of empiricism more broadly) in an environment where the enunciation of the colonial subject had been rendered problematic and objective statements had arguably lost their connection with social reality. In a period when the relationship between signifier and referent had come into question, how did this major critic understand the relationship between science and literature, or between truth and subjectivity? Sŏ warns against a simplistic apprehension of the notion of truth as unilaterally equivalent with what he calls “scientific truth” (kwahakchŏk chilli)—a nomological truth based on objective observation and confirmation by universal principles—and argues that a necessary complement to apparently objective truth is “literary truth” (munhakchŏk chinsil). Against the fixed, conceptual form of scientific thought, literary truth presents itself as an experiential truth that returns to the sensory world of the sociolinguistic subject (chuch’e) as a source of credibility.
Keywords: literary history, colonial discourse, colonial modernity, factuality, science, scientific truth, Sŏ Insik, late colonial Korea

Stepping into the Newsreel: Melodrama and Mobilization in Colonial Korean Film*
Travis Workman (University of Minnesota), 153

As part of a project on melodrama in Korean film, this article examines the ways that films from the late colonial period (1937–1945) blurred the traditional boundaries between newsreel documentary and fictional features in an attempt to suture the film spectator into the cinematic representation of what Andre Bazin called, in relation to the newsreel, “total history.” Drawing on theoretical discussions of sentimentality and melodrama, the article compares the earlier fictional film Sweet Dream (1936) to the wartime film Korea Strait (1943) in order to trace how melodrama was transformed through its incorporation into political propaganda. It discusses how narrative cinematic techniques such as point of view, shot/reverse shot, and crosscutting allowed Korea Strait to draw the viewer into spectacles of mobilization that were formerly represented through the more anonymous mass medium of the newsreel documentary. The remainder of the article touches on the films Volunteer (1941) and Spring on the Korean Peninsula (1941), discussing how the interpretive excess enabled by melodrama remained visible after the hybridization of fictional film and newsreel, primarily through the disjuncture between the films’ melodrama narratives and their spectacles of mobilization. In conclusion, the article suggests that the gradual elimination of any narrative excess in 1940s films reflects an apprehension about the multiple codings, identifications, and interpretations enabled through the combination of melodrama narrative with political propaganda.
Keywords: Korea, Japan, film, documentary, melodrama, mobilization, total war, newsreels, colonialism, point of view, shot/reverse shot, spectacle, propaganda

Printshops, Pressmen, and the Poetic Page in Colonial Korea
Wayne de Fremery (Sogang University), 185

By analyzing the way vernacular Korean poetry of the 1920s was produced, this article initiates a study of the sociology of Korean literary production. Based on a survey of forty-five vernacular Korean books of poetry produced between 1921 and 1929, bank records, Japanese colonial government records, and printed interviews, the study describes the people, organizations, and technologies involved in the production of vernacular Korean poetry in the early twentieth century. It suggests that a small number of men in a few printing facilities working within restrained typographic conditions were responsible for printing the extant corpus of Korean vernacular poetry from the 1920s. An overview of the creative ways in which poetry was expressed visually and a discussion of the poem “Pandal” (Half moon), which appears differently in the two originary alternate issues of Kim So-wŏl’s canonical 1925 work Chindallaekkot (Azaleas), make it clear that an understanding of these people and organizations, as well as of the technologies they employed, should inform how we approach texts from this period hermeneutically.
Keywords: Korean poetry, sociology of texts, printing, typography, Kim So-wŏl


Plants, Germs, and Animals: They Want to Be in History, Too!
The Premise of Fidelity: Science, Visuality, and Representing the Real in Nineteenth-Century Japan, by Maki Fukuoka, The Great Manchurian Plague of 1910–1911: The Geopolitics of an Epidemic Disease, by William C. Summers and The Nature of the Beasts: Empire and Exhibition at the Tokyo Imperial Zoo, by Ian Jared Miller
Fa-ti Fan (Birmington University), 231

Japanese History, Post-Japan
The Invention of Religion in Japan, by Jason Ānanda Josephson, Empire of the Dharma: Korean and Japanese Buddhism, 1877–1912, by Hwansoo Ilmee Kim and An Imperial Path to Modernity: Yoshino Sakuzō and a New Liberal Order in East Asia, 1905–1937, by Jung-Sun N. Han
George Lazopoulos (University of California, Berkeley), 245

Law as a Contested Terrain under Authoritarianism
Environmental Litigation in China: A Study in Political Ambivalence, by Rachel Stern and Legal Mobilization under Authoritarianism: The Case of Post-Colonial Hong Kong, by Waikeung Tam
Ching Kwan Lee (University of California, Los Angeles), 253

Historicizing Queer Stories from Asia
Shanghai Lalas: Female Tongzhi Communities and Politics in Urban China, by Lucetta Yip Lo Kam and Two-Timing Modernity: Homosocial Narrative in Modern Japanese Fiction, by J. Keith Vincent
Petrus Liu (Yale-NUS College), 259

Coming to Terms with War: Traumas, Identities, and the Power of Words
What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in 19th Century China, by Tobie Meyer-Fong and Writing War: Soldiers Record the Japanese Empire, by Aaron William Moore
R. Keith Schoppa (Loyola University Maryland), 263

Hanoi and the American War: Two International Histories
Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War, 1954-1965, by Pierre Asselin and Hanoi’s War: An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam, by Lien-Hang T. Nguyen
Geoffrey C. Stewart (Western University), 275


Japanese Scholarship on the Sino-Japanese War, 2007–2012
Duan Ruicong (Keio University), 287

The Microhistory of Anti-Japanese Speech Acts
Puron yŏlchŏn: Mich’in saenggaggi paetsok esŏ naonda [The biographies of rebellious people in colonial Korea], by Jung Byung Wook
Andre Schmid (University of Toronto), 310