Korean-War celebrities between global capital and regional nationalisms
ABSTRACT: This article examines conflicts over the transnationalization of South Korean celebrities in the wake of the Korean Wave (Hallyu) in the twenty-first century. I consider a number of celebrity controversies to argue that the demands placed upon Hallyu celebrities by domestic observers, foreign audiences, and global capital are fundamentally irreconcilable. South Korean nationalist appropriation of Hallyu, as well as the local celebrity culture, demand that Hallyu stars firstly be exemplary Korean patriots, whereas international audiences expect sympathy for their own causes. Local nationalist agendas have proven particularly troublesome because of postcolonial sensibilities and ongoing territorial disagreements between South Korea and its neighbors. Finally, as circulating commodities and commercial assets, Hallyu stars are also pledged to global capital. Their value is highest when they appeal to as broad an audience as possible and alienate no one with their politics. An apolitical neutrality on regionally controversial issues, however, is an untenable position when antagonistic geopolitical interests are concerned and nationalist passions flare. I situate this argument within critical scholarship on cultural globalization flows within Asia, while engaging celebrity studies to frame Hallyu stars as transnational commodities.
Olga Fedorenko is Assistant Professor at the Anthropology Department of Seoul National University. She received her PhD from the East Asian Studies Department at the University of Toronto in 2012 and was Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow at the Department of East Asian Studies at New York University in 2012-2015. Dr. Fedorenko’s research deals with advertising, media, and popular culture in South Korea. Her articles appear in The Korean Popular Culture Reader (Duke UP), Feminist Media Studies, Anthropological Quarterly, and Explorations in Critical Studies of Advertising (Routledge).