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With an increasingly pervasive presence of social media in our everyday life, Korean media and cultural contents have become easily accessible in the US. Yet, Korea media and cultures in the twenty first century are still often understood through proliferating discourses that generalize and simplify the dynamic sociohistorical context of the country: the rise of K-pop as a global sociocultural phenomenon, Samsung and LG’s digital TV and cellphones, enduring military tensions with North Korea, and the ubiquity of plastic surgery. This seminar examines Korean contemporary culture and its context by appropriating research, keywords, and methods from Media and Cultural Studies. These analytical toolkits will assist us to go beyond the surface of culture and to chart “a deep cultural map of the present.” Each week, we explore different themes, media genres, and social issues pertaining to contemporary Korean culture, including, but not limited to, online gaming, K-pop, reality television, zombies, nostalgia, and precarity. As we closely read and interpret these disparate instances, a special emphasis will be placed on nurturing your ability to think deeply and critically about the broader social contexts reflected in these texts. After taking this course, you should be able to:


  • Identify and define key vocabularies in Media and Cultural Studies;  

  • List various aspects of Korean media and culture and their related social contexts; 

  • Describe and explain crucial historical moments that are necessary to understand Korea in the present;   

  • Have a nuanced understanding of Korean media, culture, and society.


Students are not expected to have extensive knowledge of history of Korea or the methods and theories in Media and Cultural Studies. The course is basically intended for anyone interested in learning more about contemporary Korea.


Week 1.  Introduction, Syllabus, Logistics


Week 2.  Cultural Studies and the Work of “Banalizing” Korea


  • Williams, Raymond. 1965. The Long Revolution. Chapter 2. The Analysis of Culture.

  • Seigworth, Gregory J. 2000. “Banality For Cultural Studies.” Cultural Studies 14(2):227-268.

  • Kang, Myungkoo. 2004. “There is no South Korea in South Korean Cultural Studies: Beyond the

       Colonial Condition of Knowledge Production.” Journal of Communication Inquiry 28(3):253-268.



Week 3.  Broadband Internet, Online Games, and Culture of Speed 


  • Townsend, Anthony M. 2007. “Seoul: Birth of a Broadband Metropolis.” Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 34:396-413.

  • Hassan, Robert. 2009. Empires of Speed: Time and the Acceleration of Politics and Society. Brill.

  • Huhh, Jun-Sok. 2008. “Culture and Business of PC Bangs in Korea.” Games and Culture. January:26-37.

  • Chang, Kyung-Sup. 1999. “Compressed Modernity and its Discontents: South Korean Society in Transition.” Economy and Society 28 (1):30-55.



Week 4.  Developmentalism and Sociotechnial Imaginaries


  • Kang, Myungkoo. 2011. “Compressed Modernization and the Formation of a Developmentalist

       Mentalité.” In Reassessing the Park Chung Hee era, 1961-1979: Development, Political Thought,       

       Democracy & Cultural Influence, edited by Hyung-A Kim and Clark W. Sorensen, 166-186. 

       University of Washington Press.

  • Jasanoff, Sheila, and Sang-Hyun Kim, eds. 2015. Dreamscapes of Modernity: Sociotechnical

       Imaginaries and the Fabrication of Power. University of Chicago Press. 

  • Kim, Eun-Sung. 2018. “Sociotechnical Imaginaries and the Globalization of Converging Technology Policy: Technological Developmentalism in South Korea.” Science as Culture 27(2):175-197.

  • Han, Kyonghee, and Gary Lee Downey. 2014. Engineers for Korea. Morgan & Claypool.



Week 5.  Cold War and Militarism

  • Moon, Seungsook. 2005. Militarized Modernity and Gendered Citizenship in South Korea. Duke University Press. Chapter 1, 2, & 3.

  • Jeon, Chihyung. 2010. “A Road to Modernization and Unification: The Construction of the Gyeongbu Highway in South Korea.”  Technology and Culture 51(1):59-79.

  • Eckert, Carter J. 2016. Park Chung Hee and Modern Korea: The Roots of Militarism 1866-1945. The Belknap Press of Harvard University.



Week 6.  IMF Crisis and Neoliberalism

  • Ong, Aihwa. 2006. Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty. Duke University Press.

  • Cho, Younghan. 2008. “The National Crisis and De/Reconstructing Nationalism in South Korea During the IMF Intervention.”  Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 9(1):82-96.

  • Screening: Default (Choi, Kook-hee 2018)



Week 7.  Reality TV and Survivalist Governmentality

  • Ouellette, Laurie, and James Hay. 2008. Better Living through Reality TV: Television and Post-welfare Citizenship. Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Kim, Hong-Jung. 2018. “Survivalist Modernity and the Logic of Its Governmentality.”  International Journal of Japanese Sociology 27:5-25.

  • Screening: Episodes from Produce 101 (CJ E&M)

Week 8.  “Spec Generation” and Precarious Youth  

  • Cho, Hae-Joang. 2015. “The Spec Generation Who Can’t Say “No”: Overeducated and Underemployed Youth in Contemporary South Korea.”  positions 23(3):437-462.

  • Ross, Andrew. 2009. Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times. NYU Press.

  • Jung, Minwoo. 2017. “Precarious Seoul: Urban Inequality and Belonging of Young Adults in South Korea.”  positions 25(4):745-767.

  • Screening: Episodes from Misaeng (CJ E&M)   

Week 9.  K-pop Music Videos and Aspirations for Transnational Flow

  • Jin, Dal Yong. 2014. “The Power of the Nation-state amid Neo-liberal Reform: Shifting Cultural Politics in the New Korean Wave.”  Pacific Affairs 87(1):71-92.

  • Shin, Hyunjoon. 2009. “Have you ever seen the Rain? And who’ll stop the Rain?: The Globalizing Project of Korean Pop (K-pop).”  Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 10(4):507-523.

  • Doré, Philippa, and Peter C. Pugsley. 2019. “Genre Conventions in K-pop: BTS’s ‘Dope’ Music Video.”  Continuum 33(5):580-589.



Week 10.  Aesthetic Surgery, Embodiment of Progress

  • Leem, So Yeon. 2016. “The Dubious Enhancement: Making South Korea a Plastic Surgery Nation.” East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal 10(1): 51-71.  

  • Albrecht, Eduardo Zachary. 2016. “Embodying Progress: Aesthetic Surgery and Socioeconomic Change in South Korea.”  East Asian Science, Technology and Society 10(1):29-49.

  • Screening: Time (Kim, Ki-duk, 2006)



Week 11.  Zombies and Monsters as Barometer of Cultural Anxiety

  • Lee, Meera. 2018. “Monstrosity and Humanity in Bong Joon-ho’s The Host.”  positions 26(4):719-747.

  • Kim, Jaecheol. 2019. “Biocaplyptic Imaginations in Japanese and Korean Films: Undead Nation-

        States in I Am a Hero and Train to Busan.”  Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 20(3):437-451.

  • Dendle, Peter. 2007. “The Zombie as Barometer of Cultural Anxiety.” In Monsters and the Monstrous: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil, edited by Niall Scott, 45–57. 

  • Screening: The Host (Bong, Joon-Ho 2006) 

Week 12.  Sports Games and the Nation as a Spectacle 

  • Cho, Younghan. 2012. “Major League Baseball as a forged national pastime: constructing personalized national narratives in South Korea.” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 13(4) 532-547.

  • Kim, Yeong-Hyun. 2004. “Seoul: complementing economic success with Games.” In World Cities Beyond The West: Globalization, Development, and Inequality, edited by Josef Gugler, 59-81. Cambridge University Press.



Week 13.  Nostalgia, Collective Memory and the Meaning of Retro

  • Choi, Chungmoo. 1993. “The Discourse of Decolonization and Popular Memory: South Korea.” positions 1(1): 77–102.

  • Lagerkvist, Amanda. 2010. “The Future Is Here: Media, Memory, and Futurity in Shanghai.”  Space and Culture 13(3):220-238.

  • Fisher, Mark. 2014. Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology, and Lost Futures. Zero Books.

  • Screening: Episodes from Reply 1997 (CJ E&M 2012) and Reply 1988 (CJ E&M 2015)



Week 14.  Museums and Modern Urbanization

  • Bennett, Tony. 1995. The Birth of the Museum, edited by Tony Bennett, Jennifer Craik, Ian Hunter, Colin Mercer and Dugald Williamson, Culture: Policies and Politics. Routledge.

  • Mattern, Shannon. 2013. Paju Bookcity: The Next Chapter. Places Journal January 2013.

  • Kim-Watson, Jini. 2011. Seoul and Singapore as “New Asian Cities”: Literature, Urban Transformation, and the Concentricity of Power. positions 19(1): 193-215. 



Week 15.  Class, Gender, and Urban Housing  

  • Song, Jesook. 2014. Living On Your Own: Single Women, Rental Housing, and Post- Revolutionary Affect in Contemporary South Korea. State University of New York Press.

  • Moon, Seungsook. 2005. Militarized Modernity and Gendered Citizenship in South Korea. Duke University Press. Chapters 5 & 6.

Week 16. Final: Student Presentations

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