Theorizing the Korean Wave| Shock and Surprise: Theorizing the Korean Wave Through Mediatized Emotions
In the current article, I examine the continuing fascination with the outstanding success of Korean popular culture beyond national and regional borders, known as the Korean Wave or Hallyu, through the mediatized emotions of shock and surprise. More specifically, by studying emotions, I employ Erving Goffman’s seminal work on stigma and its management to understand the ambivalent reception of this so-called global success. For this purpose, I follow the media coverage of Korean popular culture by one of the mainstream media stages, the New York Times, measuring the emotional tone of its 112 items between 2002 and 2021. By identifying and analyzing three major categories—(1) enchantment with a cultural “miracle”; (2) fascination with fans; and (3) disenchantment because of global success but local failure—I question the celebration of non-Western alternative cultural globalization from the margins as, by definition, an ambivalent and partial project.