K-Popping Its Way Into Mainstream Media?

Gangnam Style. The K-pop video that took the world by storm. 2.5 billion views on YouTube, cementing itself as the most viewed YouTube video of all time. However, those 2.5 billion views just show a small glimpse into South Korea’s culture industry.

In a society that was often dominated by American and Japanese culture, South Korea began to kick into gear, becoming a competitor to the two powerful cultures that not only had an effect on Asia, but pretty much the world. However, with the mass production of films, music and TV shows, South Korea created a wave of Korean culture, overpowering America and Japan to become the most dominant cultural force in Asia.

The Korean wave is pertinent to the field of global communication studies because this cultural phenomenon is quintessentially communicative, central to a notion of shared and mediated culture as a transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbolic form and action by means of which people communicate, understand each other, and develop their new identities. – Woongjae Ryoo [1]
I have to agree with Woongjae Ryoo’s comment on the Korean media being a shared and mediated culture, as we can use subtitles to watch their movies and television shows or we can enjoy the rhythm & beat of K-pop songs without knowing the words. The Korean wave is simply communicative.
However, With American companies, such as Warner Bros and Fox, now producing Korean content, it demonstrates a prime example of ‘cultural hybridisation’. But what is cultural hybridisation?

Hybridisation of culture occurs as local cultural agents and actors interact and negotiate with global forms, using them as resources through which local peoples construct their own cultural spaces, as exemplified in the case of South Korean cinema and television dramas. Woongjae Ryoo [2]

America’s interest in Korean production companies demonstrates this process. Although it may not have a direct effect in the Korean media, it serves as a purpose to strengthen the ties between American companies and Korean producers. This may contribute to an “Americanisation period” in Korea in the near future.
One example of ‘cultural hybridisation’ is the popular entity of K-pop and in particular, PSY. The Korean pop star rose to international fame with the smash hit “Gingham Style”, which kicked off his period of ‘cultural hybridisation’. PSY, already being famous in Korea, began to introduce the English language into songs and collaborating with American artists such as Snoop Dogg. This further serves Woongjae Ryoo’s theory of developing a new identity, as PSY was considered new to the American audiences, however, has been a K-pop star since 2001.
PSY had two upsides of being a performer for both Korean and American music companies. His K-pop songs were now being  played all over the world, intriguing listeners to venture into K-pop to search for other artists and purchase k-pop albums. With his popularity in Korea, the other upside is with his songs, such as “Gentleman” and “Hangover”, that contain English lyrics. These songs give the Korean culture a chance to listen to ‘American music’  and other American artists.
America’s interest with Korean media elucidates the attempts from both American companies and Korean performers to introduce themselves to a new culture and market. This “cultural hybridisation” furthers Ryoo’s theory of the Korean wave being pertinent to the field of global communication studies.
[1] Woongjae Ryoo (2009) Globalization, or the logic of cultural hybridization: the case of the Korean wave, Asian Journal of Communication, 19:2, 137-151
[2] Woongjae Ryoo (2009) Globalization, or the logic of cultural hybridization: the case of the Korean wave, Asian Journal of Communication, 19:2, 137-151

Transnational Film – Crouching Tiger and the Hidden Dragon

American films have a massive viewing all over the world, except for one country. India. That’s right. Indian film fans would rather flock to see the latest Bollywood hit than watch one that was produced in Hollywood. Hollywood only accounts for less than 10 percent of India’s box office revenue. When this is compared to China, whose box office revenue is 60 percent from Hollywood, we ask ourselves why is that so?

The difference between China and India, in terms of Hollywood’s ‘interference’ in their film industry, is the fact that Chinese producers can’t target the right audience for their films. This is usually the result of “top Chinese producers trying to compete with Hollywood with big-budget costume dramas.” These dramas aren’t what the audience are looking for anymore, making this strategy struggling to be successful. Hence why Chinese film fans would rather see the next Hollywood blockbuster than a local film.

In India, the film industry is separated to target local audiences with different local languages. The films are different between each local language, with each language having a local theme to the target audience.

China are now going through a period of “Bollywoodisation” of their own, and along with India, are beginning to have large amounts of revenue in the box office. So could we see these countries take control of global film flows from America?

This really comes down to the ability of these countries to undergo ‘cultural hybridisation’ with Western culture, in order to gain the attention of the Western world’s audience. China have been doing this for some time, with actors such as Bruce Lee, Ang Lee and Jackie Chan, being involved in ‘cultural hybrid movies’. These movies would contain sequences of martial arts and Wuxang narratives that are ‘flattened… cultural markers’ (Curtin, 2007: 289).

The success of America’s highest-grossing foreign language film – Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (released in 2000), which earned $128 million – was attributed to hybridization, resulting in ‘an Eastern movie for Western audiences, and … a Western movie for Eastern audiences’ (Lagerkvist, 2009: 370).

‘Cultural hybridisation’ in Indian films would contribute to the success of Bollywood in North America, as seen in 2008 “Slumdog Millionaire” where its cultural references connected with the audience, becoming a huge success. However, little to they realise the film was actually co-produced by a UK production company. Hence why the cultural references where easier to understand for North American audiences.

David J. Schaefer and Kavita Karan discuss another reason why Bollywood is beginning to have an effect on North America.

The content of popular Hindi cinema itself has undergone profound transformations in the years since India’s economic liberalisation in 1991. A Westernised shift in the content of popular Hindi films, which ironically may have contributed to heightened American sensitivity to and labelling of any film set in India as a ‘Bollywood’ film.

Chinese and Indian films may very well take control of global film flows from America. This will only happen however, if Chinese and Bollywood films continue to use “cultural hybridisation” in order to continue an increase in North American audiences.



Curtin, M. (2007) Playing to the World’s Biggest Audience: The Globalization of Chinese Film and TV. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Lagerkvist, J. (2009) ‘Global Media for Global Citizenship in India and China’, Peace Review 23: 367–75.

Schaefer, D. Karan, K. (2010) Problematizing Chindia : Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows. Sage Publications

A Tortoise? Whats That?

The year is 2065. You’re standing in your one bedroom apartment, gazing out the window. The city skyline below, barely visible through the smog that darkens the city. Its 10am and its time to go to work. See, you work for a company that specialises in the making of robots. As you’re walking to work, you look up at the buildings, where large screens are placed, sorta similar to Times Square in New York. Except theres something different. All around you are advertisements written in a different language. The people in the ads are Asian, and thats when you realise where you are. You’re in Los Angeles.

Well if you have seen Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic “Blade Runner”, then this makes a little more sense. Although the most of the focus in the film is about a robot catching detective, an unnoticed contribution to the ‘dystopian’ setting globalisation and its impact on this futuristic society.

According to Michael O’Shaughnessy and Jane Stadler [1] , globalisation ‘could lead to the homogenisation of world cultures, or to hybridisation and multiculturalism.’ This definition supports a ‘utopian’ view on globalisation, but I wanna focus more on the ‘dystopian’ views presented by Manuel Castells.

While the media have become indeed globally interconnected, and programs and messages circulate in the global network, we are not living in a global village, but in customised cottages globally produced and locally distributed  (Castells, 2000, p.370)

Castells quote brings the negative connotations of globalisation to fruition, in which O’Shaughnessy and Stadler explore further with relevant examples. The ‘dark side’ of globalisation, such as the 2005 United Nations Human Development Report, sparked the creation of the anti-globalisation movement. The movement targets those corporations such as McDonald’s and Nike that gain larger economic benefits than smaller companies, in order to abridge the gap between the rich and poor.

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If we compare the globalisation between 1982 and today, we can see the impact of ‘cultural imperialism’ has had on society as well as which country is apart of the imperialism. Ridley Scott believes that in the year 2019, that Asia, specifically China, has used ‘cultural imperialism’ to become the dominant culture due to its economic success. However, today in 2015, the world of globalisation is still Americanised. People watch Hollywood blockbusters, eat American fast food, wear American clothing brands and use American technology.

“The globalisation of communicayion has been driven by the pursuit of the commercial interests of large US-based transnational corporations, often acting collaboration with Western (predominantly American) political and military interests; and this process has resulted in a new form of dependency in which the traditional cultures are destroyed through the intrusion of Western values” (Thompson 1995, p. 165)

With overriding control of media, such as television and radio, society may not have access to a diverse range of content, including perspectives on a range of critical and political view. We may think we have freedom in some aspects, when in fact we don’t, and that doesn’t really sound like a feature of a ‘utopian’ society does it?


[1] – O’Shaughnessy M, & Stadler J, 2012, Media and Society, 5th edn, Oxford University Press, Northwestern University