Arts & International Affairs: Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2018 - Page 58

KOREAN POPULAR CULTURE AND HISTORICAL SENSIBILITIES IN EAST ASIA JOOYOUN LEE ARTS & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS • VOLUME 3, ISSUE 1 • SPRING 2018 Associate Professor Department of Global Studies and Political Science, School of Behavioral and Social Sciences, St. Edward’s University, USA ABSTRACT This article draws on the 2016 “Tzuyu Incident” involving a K-pop girl band, Twice, and its Taiwanese member, Chou Tzuyu, to examine the intensity of political-cultural reactions to the incident in Taiwan and South Korea. It aims to reassess the role of popular culture in International Relations (IR) by exploring the way that popular culture makes, remakes, and dissolve borders. I argue that popular culture entails contradictory processes of crossing and delimiting borders, as a site where an individual’s world-historical sensibilities are evoked in a way that makes borders not only dissolved, but also, at the same time, demarcated by reinforcing nationalistic sentiments. These seeming contradictions are not fixed, however. By demonstrating that popular culture in East Asia flows multi-directionally and evokes local agency as a way to articulate identity, this article highlights that popular culture generates political processes of mixing and de-mixing subjectivities. Introduction Popular culture in International Relations (IR) has typically been analyzed as a tool of the state to enhance its status in the international arena or as products of culture industries to pursue their profits. This view is manifested in Joseph Nye’s notion of soft power. He notes that popular culture, as an effective instrument of the state’s soft power, establishes preferences in a way that influences international audiences (Nye 2004:12; Nye and Kim 2013:5). These understandings entail the idea that culture is the sheer product intended for the interests of the state or business. From this perspective, culture is located in a fixed binary relationship between the state and its audiences or between business and its consumers. 1 On the other hand, popular culture has also been examined in the large framework of culture, as a way to challenge a state-centric approach. In this view, as generators of “non-iso- 1 For limits of this view, see J. Lee (2017) and Ling (2017). 57 doi: 10.18278/aia.3.1.5