Exclusive identity politics and the marginalization of dissenting voices in the branding of Hallyu drama

Basil Glynn, Jeongmee Kim

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


In regard to television drama and music, the term ‘hallyu’ outside of South Korea serves as a form of brand description that often signifies, in addition to the country of origin, ‘safe’ and palatable content. As a “made in Korea” brand, hallyu drama conjures recurring images of romantic, good looking and exceptionally well-attired male and female protagonists, beautiful apartments and scenic backdrops with dutiful sons and daughters living largely sexless lives in romantic quests for heterosexual love. As a result, critical practice has tended to replicate hallyu’s own prioritization of internationally profitable, appealing and engaging creative content. In addition to financial return, many positive benefits have been attributed to hallyu drama’s glossy and unoffending content, including how it is helping to greatly improve the image of Korea abroad. By way of contrast, innovative and controversial dramas that have attempted to tackle difficult or taboo subject matter or criticize widely held attitudes and beliefs in Korean society have barely appeared in English language analysis. This paper will attempt to address this imbalance and examine several dramas, including the 2012 Korean drama, ‘Life is Beautiful’ (SBS), which generated extremely strong reactions from various sectors of Korean society due to its depiction of homosexuality. Life is Beautiful was the first long-running Korean serial to feature gay main characters and it was responded to by angry demonstrations, newspaper campaigns and outright bans from government agencies. Despite such impact domestically, it remains largely unknown in the regional or global markets and critically undiscussed because, it will be argued, it did not adhere to a hallyu ‘ideal’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 11 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes
EventEast Asian Popular Culture Conference - Fukuoka, Fukuoka, Japan
Duration: 11 Jan 202112 Jan 2021

Academic conference

Academic conferenceEast Asian Popular Culture Conference


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