The Cultural Cold War Goes “Vulgar”: Radio Serial Melodrama in Post–Korean War South Korea, 1956–1960
This study explores the birth of the popular radio serial drama under the Cold War doctrine of national broadcasting in 1950s South Korea. By examining texts, critiques, production practices, and writers, I interrogate how the anti-Communism propaganda mandate was negotiated in radio drama, influenced not only by the South Korean government and the field of radio production but also by the U.S. cultural Cold War programs and Americanization. As the result of historical contingencies within radio-drama production, the propaganda mission of national broadcasting morphed into “vulgar” melodrama, focused on romantic triangles and urban lifestyles. Whereas themes contrasted with the government intention, the genre effectively supported the purposes of anti-Communist propaganda by promoting the American way of life, wherein individual freedom was identified with capitalist consumer modernity. In this vein, serialized melodrama heralded an important shift in radio propaganda from direct and overt anti-Communism to a more ambiguous and recreational direction. This complex process is considered in relation to Americanization of radio writers and the U.S. cultural Cold War efforts, such as the Broadcasters Exchange Program.