Arts & International Affairs: Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2018 - Page 69

KOREAN POPULAR CULTURE AND HISTORICAL SENSIBILITIES IN EAST ASIA Some critics would suggest that Korean netizens’ support for Chou’s Taiwanese identity is the result of the anti-Chinese sentiment. Indeed, one of the challenges that case study methods encounter includes rival interpretations (George and Bennett 2005:91). Cho and Park note that while the presence of anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese sentiments is an important factor in East Asian politics, such sentiment “has been more fluid than com- monly believed” rather than “being etched in the public psyche” (2011:289). In other words, oppositional sentiments are not necessarily permanent and rigid. The low data examined in this study suggest that the main driving force that led Korean netizens to support Taiwanese identity stemmed from their disappointment with the JYP Enter- tainment’s inappropriate apology and the reflections of their own historical experience, similar to situations encountered by the Taiwanese K-pop star. This historical awareness and sensibility could st ill be seen as a nationalistic sentiment, but such a sentiment oper- ated as a factor that built connectedness with the Taiwanese people, ironically. Certainly, the question of anti-Chinese sentiment offers avenues for future research regarding its intersections with popular culture and border-making. 19 In addition, this study has crucial implications for rethinking the role of popular culture in international relations. The field of IR has remarkably prioritized the production and consumption of Western culture and its implications as it relates to non-Western world. For example, culture has been conceived as a resource to promote Western dominance or as a site of non-West to resist it (Said 1978, 1993). While a significant share of pop- ular culture is currently produced and disseminated in Asia, this phenomenon has not been seriously incorporated into analysis in IR specifically and political science broadly (Otmazgin 2016). This article, by focusing on East Asia, demonstrates that non-West is not a simple consumer or resister of Western culture. Rather, popular culture in East Asia evokes local agency as a way to articulate identity and reflexivity. In this way, we may begin to decolonize international relations (Ling 2002, 2014). Second, the analysis demonstrates the multi-directional nature of popular culture. Ko- rean popular culture is flowing to other countries, including China and Taiwan, and the reactions emerging in these countries flow back to the Korean society. Flows of popular culture can never be a one-way street. It is also important to note that the Tzuyu Incident involves diverse modes of everyday practices including production, consumption, and dissemination of popular culture and reactions to it, such as an Internet variety show fea- turing Twice that aired in Korea, China’s boycott of products advertised by Tzuyu and Twice’s performance, JYP Entertainment’s apology statements appeared on their website, and Tzuyu’s apology video posted on YouTube. Information of these sets of cultural prac- tices is flowing multi-directionally across and within national borders through non-gov- ernmental social media as well as elite messages such as newspapers. This multi-direc- tionality bears crucial potentials for the flowing of historical sensibilities and emotions in various directions, which in turn makes borders demarcated or loosened at the same time. 19 George and Bennett suggest that the researcher examine “different parts of a complex longitudinal development” or “different turn points” (2005:92). 69