Queering The Korean Wave across the Asia-Pacific: A Hybrid International Symposium (Dec 2022)

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Queering The Korean Wave across the Asia-Pacific
A Hybrid International Symposium

8th to 9th December 2022

Department of Media, Communications, Creative Arts, Languages, and Literature
Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

Supported by the Academy of Korean Studies, Korean Studies Grant No. AKS-2022-R033

Background

Over the past two decades, the rise of international fandom for South Korean popular culture has attracted significant commentary. Buoyed by passionate fans of K-pop groups like BTS, the global success of K-dramas such as Squid Game, and practices like mukbang that have become ubiquitous across social media, the Korean Wave has radically transformed global popular culture, decentred Western media, and created new media hierarchies focussed on East Asia (Jin 2016, Kim 2013).

Despite a wealth of theorisation concerning how the Korean Wave has destabilised global media circuits centred on North America and Western Europe, however, there remains one conceptual domain that is still under-developed: how has the Korean Wave “queered” global popular culture and, in so doing, challenged the gendered status quo? In particular, there is a need to consider how the Korean Wave contributes to emerging networks of queer media and fandoms across the broader Asia-Pacific (especially within East and Southeast Asia).

The lack of attention paid in previous scholarship to the role of the Korean Wave in shaping discussions of queer sexuality and experience is surprising considering that emerging research reveals that LGBTQ+ consumers represent significant participants in Korean media fandom across the Asia-Pacific (Baudinette 2020, Kuo et. al, 2022, Oh 2015, Shin 2018). One aim of this symposium, then, is to ensure that these LGBTQ+ consumers’ experiences are no longer neglected within theorisations of the Korean Wave.

Further, recent years have also seen the emergence of Korean media which specifically celebrates queer sexuality, whether it be fanfictions featuring male K-pop idols falling in love, “Boys Love” webtoons and their live action adaptions, or films such as Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden. Such queer Korean media has become hugely popular among fans, particularly in East and Southeast Asia, and there is thus a need to explore their growing role in the broader Korean Wave.

Aims

The aim of this symposium is to draw upon the theoretical traditions of queer theory to develop new understandings of the Korean Wave that specifically focusses on how Korean media and their fandoms challenge ideological norms in a variety of transnational contexts. Broadly speaking, participants are encouraged to adopt a “reparative” queer reading that theorises the Korean Wave’s role in producing systems of support among disadvantaged consumers (Sedgwick 2003), although more critical pieces focussing on structures of oppression are also welcome.

Significantly, there is a need to bring the discussion of the gendered and sexual dimension of the Korean Wave into dialogue with recent moves in interdisciplinary Korean Studies to excavate and theorise queerness in all its forms (Henry, 2020). Embracing queer theory’s inherent radicality, participants in the symposium are invited to upend traditional accounts of the transnational Korean Wave through their centring of LGBTQ+ consumers. Participants are especially encouraged to consider how queer desires for emancipatory futures may have played a role in the transnational rise of Korean media fandom.

Recognising that a plethora of diverse consumers engage with Korean media fandom as a site to make sense of their experiences of gender and sexuality, this symposium also invites participants to consider how the Korean Wave contributes to the ongoing process of dismantling heteropatriarchy and heteronormativity across the Asia-Pacific region. Further, participants exploring how Korean media and its fandoms have influenced the production and consumption of queer media content around the globe are also encouraged to take part, especially those focussed on East and Southeast Asian case studies.

Potential Topics

Participants in this two-day symposium are encouraged to submit abstracts for consideration which address the broader theoretical aims of the event. Presentations addressing the following topics are particularly encouraged:

  • LGBTQ+ fans of Korean media within Asia-Pacific contexts and how Korean Wave fandom provides avenues of support for disadvantaged subjects.
  • Transnational fandom for queer Korean media such as BL webtoons and series, K-pop idol fanfictions, and queer cinema and their positioning in the broader Korean Wave.
  • The role of the Korean Wave and its fandoms in shaping local queer media productions and consumption patterns, particularly in East and Southeast Asia.
  • Korean Wave fan practices which challenge and or deconstruct local systems of oppression based in heteropatriarchy, heteronormativity and/or transphobia.
  • Pushback against the Korean Wave across the Asia-Pacific as a supposedly corrupting force from those wishing to uphold the gendered and sexual status quo.
  • The paradox of South Korean society’s largely negative attitudes to queer sexuality and transnational fans’ beliefs in the queer emancipatory force of the Korean Wave.

Naturally, topics beyond these potential avenues of investigation that address the symposium themes are also more than welcome.

Logistics

The symposium will be held across Thursday 8th December and Friday 9th December, Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time. The symposium is hosted by the Department of MCCALL at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia and convened by Dr Thomas Baudinette.

Participation and attendance at the symposium are free of charge.

The symposium will be a hybrid event. Those residing in the Greater Sydney Metropolitan Area are welcome to attend the symposium in person at our venue (TBC) at the Wallumattagal Campus of Macquarie University in North Ryde.

Those residing elsewhere are warmly invited to join us via Zoom. We welcome those from beyond Greater Sydney to attend in person if they so wish, however we regrettably do not have funding to defray such participants’ travel expenses.

Modest catering for morning and afternoon tea will be provided. For those attending in person, a self-funded symposium dinner will be held on December 8th after the conclusion of the first day’s discussion.

Selected presentations at the symposium will be considered for a special issue of The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture addressing the topic of “Queering the Korean Wave across the Asia-Pacific” for publication in 2024.

Call for Proposals

Those wishing to join the symposium are invited to submit 300-word abstracts addressing the symposium theme to the convenor, Dr Thomas Baudinette (tom.baudinette@mq.edu.au) by 14th October, Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time.

Along with your abstract, please also include your name, title, contact details, and a short biography of no more than 100 words.

Please place “Submission: Queering the Korean Wave” in your subject line when submitting your proposal.

Successful proposals will be notified of their inclusion in the symposium by early November.

Graduate students and scholars based in the Global South are particularly encouraged to submit proposals.

Please address any questions you may have to the convenor, Dr Thomas Baudinette (tom.baudinette@mq.edu.au).

Bibliography

Baudinette, T.Consuming Japanese and Korean pop culture in Australia: “Asia literacy” and cosmopolitan identity’, Journal of Australian Studies 44, no. 3 (2020): 318-333.

Henry, T. Queer Korea (Durham: Duke University Press, 2020).

Jin, D., New Korean Wave: Transnational Cultural Power in the Age of Social Media (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016).

Kim, Y., ed. The Korean Wave: Korean Media Go Global (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013).

Kuo, L., Perez-Garcia, S., Burke, L., Yamasaki, V. & Le, T., ‘Performance, fantasy, or narrative: LGBTQ+ Asian American identity through Kpop media and fandom’, Journal of Homosexuality 69, no. 1 (2022), 145-168.

Kwon, J. Straight Korean Female Fans and their Gay Fantasies (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2019).

Sedgwick, E., ‘Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay is About You’, in Touching, Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003): 123-151.

Shin, L. ‘Queer eye for K-Pop fandom: Popular culture, cross-gender performance, and queer desire in South Korean cosplay of K-pop stars’, Korea Journal 58, no. 4 (2018): 87-113.