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  • The Global Impact of South Korean Popular Culture: Hallyu Unbound ed. by Valentina Marinescu
  • Sang Yee Cheon (bio)
The Global Impact of South Korean Popular Culture: Hallyu Unbound, edited by Valentina Marinescu. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2014. 166pages. $80.00 cloth; $79.99 e-book.

The Global Impact of South Korean Popular Culture: Hallyu Unbound is an introduction to studies of South Korea’s unprecedented global phenomenon, the so-called Korean Wave, or Hallyu, with a focus on Korean popular culture and cultural products exported to other countries, including Korean TV series, movies, and K-pop. The book contains twelve chapters written by experts on Korean popular culture or related fields in different countries and is divided into three geographical regions (Asia, Europe, and America). The chapters are preceded by an introduction of various faces of Hallyu around the world by Valentina Marinescu. The book covers the history and current status of Hallyu in Asia, Europe, and America, and the perception, social impact, and cultural identity of Hallyu from different perspectives and from different countries.

The success of Korean cultural products around the world follows from different dissemination stories. In Asia, Korean TV dramas and K-pop illustrate a balanced development between Asian traditional values and modernity, and this fortifies and consolidates the cultural identity of Asians as Asians. Indonesia in particular is an example of an Asian country where early on Korean pop culture became influential within a lucrative entertainment industry.

In Europe, Hallyu or K-pop did not initially have a strong impact on [End Page 113] society, except for some teenagers who admired Korean pop culture. Unlike East Asian countries, some countries like Poland, Romania, the United Kingdom, and Bulgaria were not much exposed to Korean pop culture at all. This changed with the global success of Psy’s 2012 Gangnam Style. Hallyu is now an important motivation for teenagers and young adults to start learning the Korean language and studying Korea. In fact, the major media (e.g., TV, YouTube) and academic institutions in those countries today are spreading Korean culture. They teach Korean language and culture by introducing Korean cuisine, K-pop, or well-made Korean movies (in particular, those directed by Kim Ki-duk and Park Chan-wook) through both official channels such as TV and unofficial channels such as fan clubs or associations. The situation in Latin America is not so different from Europe.

Today, many books are published in English to succinctly introduce readers to Korean cinema, for example, in all its aspects. However, not many focus on the overall history and the current status of contemporary Korean culture in different countries (specifically Eastern Europe or South America), especially in terms of general ideas or different aspects of various Korean culture or cultural products, in addition to Korean film and K-pop. All chapters of this book are very informative and easy to understand, and engage in descriptive and practical-empirical arguments. Therefore, the book will be useful to readers who love Korean popular culture and who would like to learn its history and current status or gain a basic and broad knowledge of Hallyu. I am sure that this book will contribute greatly to the growing body of contemporary Korean (cultural) studies outside of Korea, especially in English-speaking countries.

There are a few things that the editor should take into consideration in an updated edition. Chapter 4, “Japanese-Korean International Marriages through the Korean Wave in Japan,” was placed in the wrong section. It should have been included in section 1, Hallyu in Asia. Some of the articles in the book need English proofreading (e.g., typos or unnatural expressions), and specific reference years when certain facts or events are explained (instead of ambiguous markers such as “this year,” “last year,” or “five years ago”). Depending on the chapter, sometimes it is hard to figure out when some events really happened. Also, some of the chapters introduce research experiments or survey results. It would be helpful to readers to see the entire picture of the status of Hallyu in a specific country if researchers would provide (simple) numerical values (e.g., percentages or number of participants per survey...


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pp. 113-114
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