Theorizing the Korean Wave| K-Culture Without “K-”? The Paradoxical Nature of Producing Korean Television Toward a Sustainable Korean Wave

Taeyoung Kim


This article examines the changing characteristics in defining the Koreanness of Korean popular culture in the era of the Korean Wave. Based on interviews with cultural bureaucrats and television producers, the study finds that creators emphasize universal values and transcultural characteristics in their cultural products to increase cultural exports. As the Korean Wave becomes an increasingly important agenda in policy contexts, state authorities redefine Koreanness with successful Korean content. Combined with other elements in the production and distribution of Korean cultural products that indicate the globalization of Korean cultural industries, the findings of interviews explain that the meaning of the prefix “K-” is defined by the global popularity of products and the market logic. However, considering cultural products have functioned as a means of promoting national unity and signifying the national identity, such a strategy of producing “Korean-less” content often causes controversies.



the Korean Wave, Korean television, Korean cultural industries, Korean cultural industry policy, cultural odor, Koreanness

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