- The Korean Wave: Evolution, Fandom, and Transnationality ed. by Tae-Jin Yoon and Dal Yong Jin
The study of Hallyu is steadily broadening, in terms of both subject matter and the theoretical frameworks applied. Considering the large number of people involved in the production and consumption of related products around the world, edited volumes can play an important role in bringing together the divergent objectives and experiences. The Korean Wave: Evolution, Fandom, and Transnationality is a collection of studies aimed at exactly that: providing new perspectives on Hallyu as a field of enquiry, with a particular focus on the transnational nature of related developments. In their very brief introduction, the editors explain that rather than adding to the large body of fragmentary case studies on Hallyu-related phenomena, the collection is intended "to provide a better understanding of Hallyu's theoretical and institutional history, on the one hand, and new features of the Korean Wave, on the other" (p. xiii). But whereas they aspire also to provide the basis for a new theoretical framework and explain the everyday lives of people in the contemporary world (p. xiv), the editors have left it mostly up to the predominantly macroscopic approaches to dovetail with [End Page 201] one another on their own accord, which they do with varying degrees of success.
The volume comprises thirteen chapters that are divided up into four sections of similar length, respectively "The Histories of the Korean Wave," "New Perspectives of Hallyu Studies," "Online Media and Global Fandom," and "Transnationality of the Korean Wave." Due to considerable overlap between the chapters, however, the categorization is slightly ambiguous. In the opening chapter, Tae-Jin Yoon and Bora Kang discuss what studies of the Korean Wave have thus far contributed. In doing so, they make a haplessly non-transnational distinction between academics working in Korea and those working outside concluding (p. 16) that, "most research (published in English) on the Korean Wave is the results [sic] of observation of an interesting and alien culture" and that "studying Hallyu in English-speaking countries is studying 'Others' (other culture, other people)."1 In the next chapter, Yong-jin Won discusses discourses of Hallyu in regard to their use in developing a national identity. While it offers an insightful overview of how in particular the Korean government and the entertainment industries have supported and responded to the Hallyu phenomenon, it is marred by a lack of evidence. Other chapters that fell a tad short of their potential include Lisa Yuk-ming Leung's chapter on the activities of K-pop fan clubs. Despite promising to analyze social media algorithms as a significant factor in the transnational prosumerism of K-pop fans, Leung focuses mainly on the experiences of two Hong Kong-based managers of a K-pop fan club, which despite being thought provoking leaves the mechanics of algorithms largely unexplored. Like Leung, Kyong Yoon offers interesting fieldwork-based comments and anecdotes, but his study of K-pop consumption in Canada fails to demonstrate the relevance of the allegedly subaltern experiences he relates to the presupposed postcolonial legacies of K-pop. And while Wonjung Min's study of K-pop reception in Latin America and Eunbyul Lee's study of Hallyu in Tunisia offer fresh observations, both are somewhat let down by their structure and framework.
Among the chapters that stand out is Seok-Kyeong Hong's study of the global consumption of Hallyu. Exploring the concept of cultural proximity and the hierarchy of taste, she finds that "Hallyu is like a Korean car running on a well-built highway, primarily constructed and polished by Japanese popular cultures" (p. 76). In his own chapter, coeditor Jin traces how Hallyu has developed into a national policy marked by the commodification of culture. Starting from its conception by Horkheimer and Adorno in 1947, he offers useful reflections on the development of the [End Page 202] notion of cultural industries, and its inclusion in government policies. He ultimately arrives at a rejection...