In the mid-2000s, the figure of toenjangnyŏ appeared in South Korean popular culture, often depicted as a woman in her twenties or thirties who compulsively purchased luxury goods best exemplified by the Starbucks cup in her hand. This figure quickly became the center of controversy about class and gender in South Korea. In this article, using both Starbucks customers’ narratives and the representation of toenjangnyŏ in popular culture, I explore the cultural politics of this figure. The toenjangnyŏ controversy provides a window into understanding one of the major effects of Starbucks branding in South Korea: the construction of a new form of femininity and the consequent anxiety about how such overt consumerism reflects class dynamics as a performance of cosmopolitanism. In contrast to dominant understandings of consumption as a non-political and individual choice, this article demonstrates how coffee consumption becomes a key site of national anxiety about foreign cultural incursion and consumer-based femininity.


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pp. 429-448
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