Thursday, September 25, 2014

K-Pop + DramaFever = South Korean political soft power. No, really.


The unavoidable popularity of PSY's "Gangnam Style" two years ago probably tipped you off to the world of South Korean pop music (if you weren't aware already).

But now K-Pop is making Turkey?
It is largely a product of the “Hallyu” (Korean Wave), an expression first coined by Chinese journalists to describe the massive increase in popularity of South Korean cultural products over the past 10 years. Fueled by a strategic effort by the South Korean government to fend off the encroachment of Japanese culture and bolster the South Korean economy, the nation’s pop music and soap operas (K-pop and K-drama) have found a particularly ardent fan base in Turkey, where veritable communities have arisen in the form of K-drama fan clubs, K-pop music groups, and websites like

The Hallyu arrived in Turkey when TRT, a government-owned TV station, began running episodes of “A Jewel in the Palace,” a wildly popular Korean soap opera set in the 15th century, about a kitchen cook who becomes the king’s first female doctor. Like many of its kind, the drama explores themes of class mobility and forbidden love. Heartbreak and romantic reconciliation are usually major plot points of all K-dramas.

These themes also pervade the lyrics of K-pop music, which taps into the mercurial passions of adolescence to maximum effect, with universal narratives about love, relationships, and belonging. In the K-drama and K-pop universe, princes commonly fall in love with paupers.
Korean dramas have also surged in popularity in the United States -- with viewers in the millions and Hollywood remakes in the works -- thanks to Hulu, DramaFever, and other streaming services.

Turns out Korean officials have taken notice.
That K-dramas have bolstered South Korea's cultural capital is quite established. In May 2013, Park was invited to Los Angeles to participate in the Leaders' Meeting for Creative Economy. The meeting brought together South Korean government and entrepreneurs to discuss Korea's economic growth on the world stage. Park was there to discuss how DramaFever and similar initiatives were helping to bolster South Korea's global influence. "We've always believed," he said in a press release, "that through the distribution of Korean content we are increasing Korea's country brand and promoting its culture and global initiatives."

In political terminology, what Park is talking about is called soft power — a term coined by Joseph Nye to refer to "the ability to achieve goals through attraction rather than coercion." Unlike hard power, writes Nye, South Korea's soft power "is not prisoner to … geographical limitations," meaning its cultural influence can easily exceed its borders, so long as a global demand for its products exists. And as DramaFever's numbers show, this demand is already there.
South Korea, lest we forget, is surrounded by pop cultural (and military) juggernauts China and Japan.

The former mass produces nearly everything. The latter has sparked global imaginations for decades with anime/manga, video games, and the dumbest possible interpretation of "ninja".

Then again, even China is investing in the next wave of Hallyu.
Some experts are tipping the start of the next wave of Hallyu, this time driven by China. According to CLSA, China's Tencent's decision in March to invest half a billion dollars in CJ Games, a unit of Korean media firm CJ E&M, is a big deal for the firm and a ringing endorsement for K-culture.

The investment gives China's largest online-games and social-networking company a 28 percent stake in CJ Games, one the most successful game developers in Korea.

"Hallyu will continue to gain momentum and CJ E&M is at the forefront of this wave," Seungjoo Ro, an analyst at CLSA, said in a report this week. "Demand is high in China and will unlock much awaited earnings expansion for CJ's media and films."
But despite having trend-setting global pop culture in their clutches, not everything coming out of the Gangnam district is chaste, teen-friendly fare.

Infamous boy/girl group talent sweatshop, SM Town, just threw a curveball with a mysterious new artist named Hitchhiker -- and a bizarre video that screams "Vaporwave" more than K-Pop:

And not a moment too soon -- some Korean officials are already worried Hallyu is getting too stale.
New Culture Minister Kim Jong-deok said Wednesday that hallyu was bound to lose its appeal unless it moves on from its current cookie-cutter style and content.

“Hallyu is now driven mostly by (the popularity of a small bunch of) entertainers (the so-called hallyu stars,)” he told a group of reporters in Seoul on Wednesday. But that’s not a sustainable strategy.

Speaking at his first press conference since taking office on Aug. 21, the minister stressed the need for genuine cultural exchange and cultural diversity if hallyu is to reach another level and develop into a source of “soft power” for Korea.
So maybe there's hope for Seoul-loving weirdos everywhere.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

is now tweeting @jasonprechtel - follow me!

In an effort to separate Culture Bore posts from my constant stream of news retweets on @culturebore, I've created @jasonprechtel.

No, that does not mean this blog is dead -- just means there are bolder plans for the future.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Turkish ISIS and tastemakers (link round-up 9/21/14)

"Despite its ubiquity in popular discussions, however, acting white theory has come under sustained criticism from education scholars."

"The U.N. refugee agency said earlier that about 70,000 Syrians have crossed into Turkey in the past 24 hours, and that it was preparing for the arrival of hundreds of thousands more."

“There are clearly recruitment centers being set up in Ankara and elsewhere in Turkey, but the government doesn’t seem to care.”

"Personal attacks conveyed through email and Twitter aimed at the correspondent, Ceylan Yeginsu, have intensified in Turkey since the publication of her article on Tuesday about the Islamic State’s recruitment efforts."

"With Uber valued at $18 billion, Airbnb valued at $10 billion, and new imitators popping up daily, Silicon Valley is clearly infatuated with the middleman model."

"The scientists said they don’t know when the North Eurasians moved into the rest of Europe, or understand why they mated with the people they encountered as frequently as they did."

"For those of us who are frantic in our daily lives, incorruptible human cultural curators of eclectic taste mean the world to us."

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pabst Blue Russians, Oakland street Buddhas, and Ivy League idiocy (link round-up 9/19/14)


"Just as troublingly, why are elite universities, of all institutions, perpetuating the destructive stereotype that smart people are one-dimensional dweebs?"

"The Buddha has withstood two attempts to remove him from his watch, one criminal and one governmental. Neither has worked."

"From Ireland to Turkey, nearly every country in Europe has at least one red dot on a map visualizing threats to journalists."

"So New York is implying that the Chinese Americans in Brooklyn either do not count, do not exist, or aren’t really in Brooklyn."

 "At the Smorgasburg food fair in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Mikheil Saakashvili motored in fluorescent green sneakers among bearded men with tattoos and women in revealing overalls."

"A Russian company has purchased Pabst Blue Ribbon, an iconic brew that’s been in production in the U.S. since 1844."

 "...they're consistent with the pre-election polls, which found consistently higher levels of support for independence among lower-income Scots."

 "Culturally, Khartoum is monolithically Arab and Muslim, with a watered-down version of a Sudanese urban identity."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Chimps, anti-depressants, and Alt-Bros (link round-up 9/18/14)


"New research from an international coalition of ape researchers suggests that killing among chimpanzees results from normal competition, not human interference."

"The world population may balloon to anywhere between 9.6 and 12.3 billion by 2100, according to a new report that used statistics from the United Nations. The new estimates far outstrip previous calculations of 7.2 billion."

"'It really does look like the indigenous West European hunter gatherers had this striking combination of dark skin and blue eyes that doesn't exist any more.'"

"A single dose of a popular class of psychiatric drug used to treat depression can alter the brain’s architecture within hours, even though most patients usually don’t report improvement for weeks, a new study suggests."

"Uniqueness is as much a mechanism of control as an apparent expression of our distinctiveness. No wonder it’s been automated."

"The Alt-Bro listens to Ethiopian jazz.
The Alt-Bro wants to astral-project.
The Alt-Bro who reads this will think he’s an exception."

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