Publication – Reflecting on Japan-Korea relations through the Korean Wave

Members of TXT promoting in Harajuku in January 2020 (the day after I left!)

Almost one and a half years ago, I shared some brief thoughts on the history of the Korean Wave (hallyu) in Japan as I revised and developed a journal article on K-pop fandom among Japanese young people. I can happily announce that the article for which these random musings represented the first step has been published today in the 36th volume of Transformative Works and Cultures, an open-access online journal devoted to the critical study of fandom and participatory culture.

Entitled “Reflecting on Japan-Korea relations through the Korean Wave: Fan desires, nationalist fears, and transcultural fandom,” my article draws upon two fieldtrips to Japan to observe the “Koreatown” of Shin-Ōkubo (about which I have written together with Kathryn Phillips here) and to interview gay male fans about their consumption of male K-pop idols (which you can learn more about here). Here is the short abstract:

The reception of K-pop in Japan must be contextualized within the postcolonial relationship between Japan and Korea. Studying fan discourse and discourse about fans reveals that the Korean Wave (that is, fandom around Korean popular culture) has produced various desires and fears among the Japanese public, suggesting that persistent Korea-phobia among conservatives stymies K-pop’s soft-power potential. A longitudinal study of K-pop fans in Japan and an ethnographic investigation of Tokyo’s Koreatown, Shin-Ōkubo, indicate that these fans’ activities reflect the current state of Japan-Korea relations. Consuming K-pop instills attraction among fans, but this must be weighed against the potential dismissal of Korean Wave fandom by conservatives as being too feminized. This case study shows the usefulness of transcultural approaches to analyses of fans.

You can access the article via the hyperlink above! 

Here’s the TXT bubble tea promo that I mention in the first paragraph of the article!

As a K-pop fan, this article was a little bit of a labour of love to be honest and it was a lot of fun to meet with Japanese fans and learn about what makes them tick. My thanks also to a number of people who helped connect me with key stakeholders and to the staff at the Arirang Center for History and Culture in Shin-Ōkubo for their very generous assistance!

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