South Korea Manages Globalization: Strategies of Self-Definition and Cultural Preservation
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The nation of South Korea transitioned from being one of the poorest countries worldwide to becoming the 15th largest economy. South Korea has attempted to manage globalization by actively developing and supporting cultural based entertainment, such as film and music while also promoting cultural and historical preservation, such as elements of the Han brand and other traditional and national elements. This study counters views against theoretical frameworks of cultural imperialism and particularly media imperialism. Theories of cultural and media imperialism delineate globalization as the hegemonic takeover by American popular culture, which can lead to various forms of cultural demise in non-Western countries. However, this does not seem to be the case for South Korea. Instead, I argue that South Korea has successfully managed globalization, guarding against Western hegemony and has not succumbed to American cultural or media imperialism. This paper’s methodology uses a combination of primary and secondary sources. As a result, two main strategies have been identified in this paper’s thesis which account for South Korea’s success, both of which are endorsed by governmental support and cultural policy: self-definition and cultural preservation. Self-definition entails the global and local proliferation of South Korea’s cultural industry, which primarily encompasses South Korean film and music (K-Pop). South Korean films and K-pop are successful economic outlets and competitive alternatives to Western popular culture. Evidence of South Korea’s successful cultural industry in film can be seen in the number of people attending the films, hold on its domestic market share, and overall popularity for South Korean cultural content in films. K-pop has also exhibited much success due to its global sales and wide-ranging fans worldwide. Cultural preservation involves maintaining traditional elements of South Korean culture, particularly the continuation and preservation of traditional, and historical elements of the Han brand, including hanok (housing), hanbok (dress), hansik (cuisine, particularly kimchi), and taekwondo, as well as other traditional elements. Evidence of this can be found in South Korea’s focus and promotion of Korean identity and nationalism. Anthropological theories such as cultural hybridization, nationalism, and cultural identity are thus believed better equipped to understand South Korea’s success in managing globalization.
Stewart, Evan W (2014). South Korea Manages Globalization: Strategies of Self-Definition and Cultural Preservation. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from