Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Kangnam Style: K-pop and the Globalization of Korean Soft Power

For the past decade, South Korea has worked tirelessly to generate soft power through its music industry, television, film, food, cosmetics, sports, and more. The consumption of South Korea's popular culture has spread from Asia to the rest of the world. The sheer size of the popular culture industry and the staggering funds poured into it by the government and big business raise questions that will be addressed by the class, namely: What is soft power and how is the South Korean government utilizing it? What does South Korea have to gain from it, and what are the social, economic, and cultural implications of this growing industry? What are its main expressions, and how are we to read its growing popularity? How has North Korea contended with South Korea's popular culture? And finally, what can we learn from South Korea's popular culture about the kinds of stories it tells about itself and about its position in our globalized cultural economy? To answer these questions, we will cover different aspects of the popular culture industry and contextualize them historically. We will consider the economic engine that moves these "cultural contents," and will discuss the diverse manifestations of K-pop narratives to illuminate the ways in which Korean culture is being self-narrated and consumed. Field trips include a Taekwondo workout and a Korean restaurant expedition. At the end of the seminar, you will have been exposed to a variety of K-pop genres. You will be able to apply critical analysis to a range of material both in written projects and in class discussion. You will be encouraged to explore topics of your own interest and present them in class, and your written work will be considered for publication and for various writing awards.


Meet the Instructor(s)

Dafna Zur

"As a professor of Korean literature of non-Korean heritage, I frequently get asked how I got interested in Korean culture. For me, it was Taekwondo: I went to Korea in 1994 to get my black belt, and my life was changed forever. Though my primary research focus is Korean literature, I never cease to be fascinated by how Korea produces some of the most high-quality storytelling and addictive popular culture in the world. This class is an opportunity for us to think about the Korean popular culture industry both as fans and as critics, and to acquire the vocabulary and knowledge that will help us understand K-pop and its growing prevalence and popularity."