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Reviewed by:
  • New Korean Wave by Dal Yong Jin
  • Brian Oakes
NEW KOREAN WAVE Dal Yong Jin. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2016, 232 pp.

Hallyu, or "Korean Flow," describes the wave of Korean pop culture that has recently gained global recognition. According to author Dal Yong Jin, the New Korean Wave (Hallyu 2.0) started around 2008, with the convergence of Korean creative cultural content and digital technology. Psy's 2012 global sensation "Gangnam Style" exemplifies the spirit of Hallyu 2.0. It shares characteristics with earlier K-pop hits (synthesized dance music, catchy choruses, English expressions, iconic dance moves) but became a global sensation through the use of social networking services, smartphones, and YouTube, where it has been viewed almost three billion times. The book New Korean Wave puts examples such as "Gangnam Style" in cultural, historical, and political context, while simultaneously explaining the local creation and global dissemination of Korean popular culture within the concept of cultural hybridity.

Jin describes the hybridity theory as "the heterogeneous creative mixings of the global and the local—as a convincing theoretical framework in analyzing the changing nature of local popular culture" (12). Through the use of case studies, interviews, policy analysis, descriptive statistics, and theoretical discourse, New Korean Wave makes a significant contribution to international communication and media studies literature.

The first two chapters discuss the political economy of the Korean cultural industries during the Hallyu era and the cultural politics of the New Korean Wave era. Jin explains the historical, political, and cultural precedents that allowed the South Korean culture industries to flourish in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He then goes on to explain the differences between Hallyu 1.0 and Hallyu 2.0 (the New Korean Wave) and the governmental policies behind each phase. He discusses the flow of popular culture between Korea and other countries, especially between Korea and the United States. In the subsequent chapters, New Korean Wave examines the various categories of Korean pop culture, including television, film, animation, popular music, and video games.

According to Jin, television programs and films were the most significant portion of cultural exports in the original Korean Wave. In the late 1990s, the popularity of Korean broadcast television programs, especially dramas, in foreign markets expanded exponentially. Jin explains, "Korea experienced the worst economic recession in 1997 … and broadcast companies needed to produce television programs by themselves instead of importing them" (46). Dramas such as What Is Love All About (1997) and Stars in My Heart (1997) were popular in several East Asian countries. Since the 1990s, Korean television programs have only grown in popularity around the world. In chapter 3, Jin goes into detail about the flow of television programs across borders, the influence of Western television formats, and the various genres of programs produced in Korea.

In the chapter on Korean cinema, Jin sheds light on the cultural policies that fostered the [End Page 103] development of the film industry and subsequently launched the careers of several internationally recognized filmmakers. Economics and governmental support played an outsized role in the expansion of indigenous Korean film production in the late 1990s. "The Korean government demanded domestic companies, including the largest chaebols, get involved in the global market so as to integrate the domestic cultural industries" (70). By balancing the screen quota between domestic and Hollywood films and by investing in local production and exhibition, the government fostered a vibrant local film industry. Regional successes such as Shiri (1999) and JSA/Joint Security Area (2000) led to international hits such as Park Chan-wook's Oldboy (2004) and Bong Joon-ho's The Host (2006). Jin goes on to cover popular genres/themes and the hybridized nature of Korean films in general. He notes the negative impact of changes to the screenquota system in 2006 and the subsequent lack of funding for domestic film production, painting a relatively grim view of the future for the local industry.

Jin misses an opportunity here by failing to mention the critical success of Korean filmmakers on the international film festival circuit. Of all pop culture exports, Korean film has established itself as a force in global cinema. Whereas Psy is undoubtedly...


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pp. 103-105
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