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The Korean Wave and Sociology

Abstract

The Korean wave (hallyu) has become powerful and highly remarkable, and has been able to influence other societies internationally. The Korean popular culture includes TV dramas, pop music and movies. The leader of this list in the Korean wave is the TV dramas. They have been very popular, because of the audience fantasticalness along with the fans and the fact that they add great profit to the country’s national income. The Korean wave has been able to beat other dominant cultures like the Japanese in the east and the United States in the western world. Cultural imperialism has been a new type of economic imperialism. Hallyu has propelled Korea and caused it to reign in East Asian nations. This paper looks at the way the Korean wave has been able to affect many societies, how it relates to Durkheim theory and other sociological views touching on group consciousness, false consciousness, in-groups and out-groups, and a sense of “religion”.

Introduction

The Korean wave or what is commonly known as hallyu makes reference to Korea being the most significant cultural influential force in Asia and even beyond. The television shows, movies and k-pop are watched all over the universe. The Korean began to make exports of its cultural products to other places in Asia. With time, the Korean wave has been found to expand into the Europe, Middle East, Africa, North America and South America. Most importantly, hallyu has promoted the Korean tourism (Kim, Agrusa, Chon, & Cho, 2008). Korea has gone through great transformation in very few years from a country and society with no or little significance to one that has become a point of cultural production predominantly in Asia. Presently, it is evident that the Korean wave becomes a universal phenomenon (Kim & Ryoo, 2007).

In the time prior to the start of the Korean wave, the government of Korea had a very significant role in shaping the broadcasting and movie industries. The financial crisis of Asia had a significant role in the government policies. All the same, scholars who emphasize on the establishment of culture industry just highlighted the commercial, political and economic aspects of the popular culture. This is something that should be established to yield profits.

The Korean wave has been an amazing trend whose effect has been felt around the world. For instance, Psy, a rapper singer from Korea got 100 million views on Gangnam style on YouTube. This made history in the k-pop world. Generally, the song became a global success. The song crossed borders up to America where Psy signed a deal to record with the Universal Republic Records for the album to be released in America. K-pop has continued to rise over the years from South Korea, Asia, Africa, South America, the United States, the Middle East and Europe. The Korean wave is a multifaceted trend and does not only involve music alone. It has been very much evident in TV dramas and in movies. This is particularly in Asia where the demand for the cultural products of Korea has increased. This has led to what is seen as the Korean culture being a rival with the Western and Japanese cultures. Basically, the Western and Japanese culture had been the source of movies, music and TV in Asia until the arrival of hallyu. With the success of Psy in the United States, it is true that the Korean wave has continued to expand and get international recognition. This research paper discusses how the Korean wave has affected numerous societies in the world today and how it all relates to mainly Durkheim’s theory and other theories of sociology.

The Korean Wave and Durkheim Theory

Much of the work according to Durkheim is based on the way societies can maintain their coherence and integrity in modernity. It presents an era where the conventional religious and social ties can no longer be assumed and a scenario where other social institutions emerged. This apparently is the characteristic of the Korean wave that has stretched across borders to impact the world in a global way. Durkheim’s assertions are embedded in the idea of structural functionalism (Morrison, 2006). Durkheim presents a minds’ theory developed mainly as a substitute to both behaviorism and mind identity theory. The basis of functionalism is in the states of mind including desires, being in pain and beliefs among other, which are entirely constituted through their role of function. These states are causal relations to other sensory inputs, mental states and outputs of behavior.

Natural selection as postulated by Charles Darwin gave a drastic impact on the development of Durkheim’s assertions. In this theory, the forces of the surrounding environment compelled a natural selection based on its inhabitants, and had favor on the inhabitants with characteristics that could adapt to the said environment; just like is the case with the Korean wave that has been able to adapt to various environments (Chua & Iwabuchi, 2008). The members from given species with characteristics that can adapt usually pass over, thus the component of survival to their young ones as those members lacking the adaptive characteristics starting to fade away.

For functionalists like Durkheim, societies are said to be analogous to the living organisms therein. Human beings are taken as an example. Every part of the human body is in a way connected to every other part. Specific organs come together to make something bigger than the entire sum of the separate parts. Based on social definitions, organs compare to social institutions and the emphasis is based on the connection between different institutions in the society. This gives a representation of a comprehensive strategy in studying the social universe; a way in which the Korean wave can be studied and analyzed, in the way it influences many societies worldwide.

Again, every part of the society is believed to have a function or a purpose and specific needs. For instance, the intention of the work organization is to make wealth and for this to happen, people with a given educational knowledge degree are required. Based on this, every institution in the world encounters some issues that have to be dealt with if it were to be addressed it is to survive and function well. These have been identified as the attainment of goals, adaptation, integration and latency. The goals attainment takes into account the need to establish goals for the behavior of human beings and determine the ways by which they can be attained.

Adaptation includes procurement of the means attaining the goals that are valued. This is embedded in the ability to offer physical needs of institutional life. Integration makes people feel a part of a given society. It is a feeling of belonging and a way of attaining something to commonly hold like beliefs and values. Functionalism believes in integrating people effectively for purposes of continuation and creating harmony internally, something that is reflective of the Korean wave (Lemert, 2006). Latency in what is commonly known as pattern maintenance takes into account the establishment of social control means that aim at managing tensions, resolving conflicts, motivating individuals and many other things in a society. These are functional imperatives that are considered as structural commands attained in an institution.

Other Sociological Theories Perspectives

Durkheim’s assertions are a complete contrast of other works by socialists like Weber and Marx who have supported the conflict theory. For Weber and Marx, social order takes into account exercising control over interests that oppose and consequently, that conflict existing between persons and amongst groups was an important part of each society (Morrison, 2006). The premise by Durkheim is very different. Durkheim’s focus is on the role of social actors and objects like the Korean movies, dramas and music. For Durkheim, conflict does not define society, but harmony does. Functionalism evaluates social phenomena based on their function to produce or enhance cohesion in the society.

Weber was preoccupied with the issue of rationality. The primary concern by Durkheim was solidarity; the things that put individuals as one in social institutions. Durkheim held the belief that solidarity was the basic trait of the society, and while there is havoc connected with industrialization, conflict was considered by Durkheim pathological or abnormal.

Pleasure has been a key source of motivation for people who enjoy watching programs on television. While the audience can be motivated through nice advertisements, watching television cannot be forced on anyone (Kim, 2009). All the same, the experience that comes with pleasure embedded in mass culture is a false type of pleasure. It has been a manipulating trick to the masses in order to glue them to the external statuesque of oppression and exploitation. Sociologists usually begin with the assertion that the use of media is determined through the needs of people and the anticipated gratifications. Pleasure should be perceived as not ideally the automatic consequence of needs’ satisfaction. Instead, it is the effect of a particular creativity of a cultural artifact. Regardless of the kind of satisfaction sought by people, looking for need satisfaction can be comprehended as among the considerable factors, as to why human beings love watching television. In essence, it will not be comedy all the time; tragedy affects the people watching as well. This is a factor linked with dramas in Korean TV. In most cases, the ending is usually sad and in reality some of them are absolutely disparate versions to the expectations of the audiences.

When viewed from Marx’s idea, pleasure can be compared to gloom, being the reason that human beings enjoy much about mass culture. This assertion is founded on rock music. According to the Marxist idea, due to fact that culture production is a subject to the capitalist economy laws, cultural products are devalued into commodities to male as a good deal in terms of profit in the world of market. The value of exchange of such products is thus important for the producers, amounting to quality neglect. The capitalist market economy is merely interested in surplus value production and as such is unresponsive the particular goods’ characteristic; caring solely about what they sold out and utilized. Mass culture is the intense embodiment of culture subjection to the economy; its most significant characteristic is that, it offers profit for those producing it.

The Marxist idea is motivated through culture production, as the commodities needed in a capitalist market. It takes into account other aspects like exchange value, surplus value, quality and profit (Castells, 2004). According to Marx, the main objective of the producer is to realize profits. The producer of the Korean wave thus took a trend that caused it to flourish through television. The message on television is very powerful since it changes the attitudes of an audience. When people get information through television, their esthetic sense or life standard could be impacted through particular types of advertisements or programs. One of the popular Korean TV dramas, “Winter Sonata”, shows a multifaceted and romantic story of love that occurs in Korea. The audiences to the drama are attracted by the drama plot and the intent to visit where it was shot.

A study carried out by the International Travel Fair in Korea (Huang, 2009) ranked Seoul among the cities that are most popular, mainly because of the shooting locations of the soap operas. In Singapore, for example, following Korean TV dramas broadcast, a number of the travel agencies make use of the soap operas from Korea, as the selling point in an effort of enhancing their tourism endeavors. Use and gratification is an absolute power transfer from the message on the TV to the viewers. The ‘use’ can be comprehended as the mode of watching. On the other hand, gratification is taken in based on material and spirit terms. This was meant to stimulate the rate of consumption amongst people with wherewithal and the need to consume it. Again, it aimed at offering a formation of the good life for people who did not have it. On a wider context, the foremost political significance was “what to dream”.

Spirited Group Consciousness

The Korean wave is comparable to the group consciousness of the blacks and other minority groups in the United States (Dawson, 2001). The Korean people got a hold of their culture and values and went against all norms to position themselves in the global sphere. They employed this key concept and overcame the prejudice, exclusion and disadvantage to attain influence as held by their neighbors Japan and in the western world featuring the United States. The Korean wave and its culture soared to great heights and continued to exhibit the same in a process that can be seen as democratic (Inglehart & Welzel, 2006), which is the choice of many because of the quality embedded in what it was able to offer to the nations.

The feelings of solidarity and identification that accompanied the Korean consciousness apparently fueled the collective action that assisted in making full participation very possible for all Korean affiliates. Thus, the concept of group consciousness held a very important place in the Korean wave in most accounts in the manner in which the Korean culture and values were initially minor, compared to those of the western world in the way it achieved domination and influence. The effect of group consciousness on Korean wave behaviors, most specifically through the media, started to invite serious attention from many researchers (Kim, 2007; Kim, 2009; Chua, 2004). The western world among other societies averagely proved to be vitally more active in influencing nations internationally than Korea. They had a high command in the market world; large amounts of socio-economic resources like income and education that are known to facilitate activity and engagement in many world forums. However, the Korean wave beat all these notions and sailed through by overcoming false consciousness.

Nationalism played a major role in the expansion of the Korean wave. The media from Korea and the government at large had a significant input in making sure that hallyu reached far boarders. They are revealing news reports concerning the Korean actors’ activities and the singers overseas (Sung, 2010). The Korean subjects have a belief that their culture is popular, reaching many places and highly celebrated all over the world. This has made the Korean people very proud, concerning their nation. Korean actors and idols are going beyond performing the sole function of entertainment. They are a representative of the South Korea in the universe. For instance, Psy’s rise to success has been considered as more important, compared to any other thing even much more than the international popularity of the Gangnam Style’s. Initially, Bae Yong Joon led in the famous heyday of K-drama in Japan and thus a worldwide market for K-pop was opened.

Again, nationalism plays a vital role for the federal government. Hallyu for them is a strategy of generating a lot more wealth and enhancing a strong South Korea brand. The hope of the government is that countries will look further in a positive way to South Korea. Through the strengthening of the brand, Korea could also attain a lot more recognition internationally. The Korean wave was intentionally enhanced through the government of Korea (Huang, 2009). The entertainment companies of Korea utilized the popularity of their national dramas and movies in other nations to effectively export this k-pop. In the recent past, Psy got a lot of recognition and success internationally. This only shows that the Korean wave will still continue to expand and influence the societies more.

Overcoming False Consciousness

According to Marxists thesis postulations, false consciousness makes reference to institutional and material processes in a society that is capitalistic in nature, as disingenuous to the masses and to other classes. The Korean wave overcame such processes in a society that was dominated by nations that were powerful socially, economically and politically. The western world had most of this dominance led by the United States. Such processes have been seen to betray the authentic relations of forces that act between such class and the actual state of the issues pertinent to the establishment of a pre-socialist group. This is relative to the development of secular human society.

According to the Marxist theory, false consciousness is a consequence of ideological control which the masses either may not know they are subjugated under or they could disregard with a perception to having their own chance of moving up the social, economical and political ladder (Pomer, 1984-11). This is exactly the case of the Korean wave and how the people behind it have been able to impact other societies significantly. The Korean wave overcomes this false consciousness and stands out in society that has predominantly been defined through other strong-influencers coming from the western cultures.

The In-Group and Out-Group Reality

When the culture of a country gets to be celebrated first, it means that it would be very beneficial to the country’s economy (Castells, 2004). Culture is an ideal commodity meant for entertainment companies. This is something that cannot be exported and sold out to the entire world. Dramas from Korea can be effectively exported to other nations, since it is apolitical. Nations from the Middle East love Korean dramas, since it teaches individuals to have respect for authority. In Latin America, individuals are much attracted to the passionate stories of love. The dramas from Korea are mainly based on love stories. Such are safe for different cultures to consume. Viewers from Korea have a feeling that their dramas show life in South Korea in a perfect way. This makes dramas from Korea a hybrid culture. It is both empty and apolitical and still has the time and identity of the South Korea.

The Korean wave has received a lot of boost due to their in-group predisposition and loyalist tendencies in a manner, as explained by Jackson (2011). The people from Korea have psychologically identified themselves with their culture and have held firmly to the membership of the Korean culture and societal values. They have not considered it as an out-group. Instead they have partly considered the western world and their immediate Japanese neighbors as out-groups and, on the contrary, embraced their culture (Iwabuchi, 2002). The Korean people have found it psychologically meaningful to look at themselves, based on their culture religion and race. This has propelled their influence and impact in other societies. The psychological membership of the Korean people and their culture has been widely linked with different phenomena, as seen throughout the world.

Korean Wave – Sense of Religion

The culture and values of the Korean people are very similar to that of the countries in Asia (Lee, 2011). They are based on Confucian beliefs. The Korean wave of popularity can be described through the strong anti-western and anti-Japanese feelings as found in Asia. Both the United States and Japan are disliked in the entire region (Jung, 2009). Korea is believed to have never carried out an invasion on another country. As a result, Korea is not linked with any feelings that are negative in other nations. Additionally, when compared to other nations, Korea is less threatening, particularly when compared with Japan. Based on this reason, consumers prefer products of a Korean culture more than any other kind of goods coming from Japan or America. Such beliefs and values have also had a hand in the propulsion of the Korean wave, both locally and internationally (Choi, 2003).

The proximity theory of culture in essence talks about something, although it does not give explanations as to why the cultural content of Korea became popular in the Southeast Asia and also going far much beyond Asia. These nations are not founded in the Confucianism ideology. Again, the hostility that has been held towards Japan does not give explanations to the Korean wave. Korean TV dramas have been perceived as an emerging and indirect approach to advertisements (Choi, 2003). Through advertisements, consumption can be adaptive. This is basically when consumption serves to enhance on prevailing emotions, effects and moods, moving them from either bad to good or from good to better. Human beings have the freedom of choice in consuming and taking decisions on the things they want to consume. Dramas from the Korean TV have played a very significant introduction of each Korean facet. The TV dramas that have been utilized to promote the Korean tourism are the best examples of the manner in which people are impacted through the television programs. Even though the selling strategy appears different from the direct form of advertisement, it is a new strategy of having economic imperialism. The commercialism conflation as an economic production principle is absolutely capitalistic, with commercialism as a way of cultural production of goods and other products for consumption, which is linked to the popular trend.

With the popularity seen in the TV dramas from Korea, South Korea could be on the verge of transition, as it seeks to implement policies to build their economy on a culture that is popular, may be consequently changing the “Gross National Product”, used to measure the socio-economic excellence with “Gross National Cool” (Huang, 2009). Korea is entering a position of establishing a new world previously dominated by the Americans. The tourism of Korea has become a lot more popular through the exportation of popular culture to the countries in East Asia. Generally speaking, there are various reasons for visiting Korea. The cultural imperialism aspect has been realized through the use of TV dramas in order to market Korean tourism. The more the phenomenon of Korea continues to show forth itself, the more ambivalent is the duty of the audience of television.

Korea is becoming the centre of pop culture in the entire Asia and beyond. This is a region that was previously dominated by TV dramas from Japan for a given period of time (Kim, 2009). At present, the Korean TV popularity has replaced what was initially, a reign by the Japanese TV shows. The takeover by the Korean TV dramas is a representative of the worldwide acceptance of the cultural proximity and pleasure elements. TV dramas like Stairway to Heaven (2003/4) and Autumn Fairy Tale (2000) among others have been on in the lead in propagating the Korean wave. The Korean TV dramas out-performed the Japanese ones, because of their complex-intriguing nature. The structure of feeling is comparable to that of a translocal reckoning of practical decision-making and moral ideas. They are both based on youthful sexuality and sentimentality matters and Asian modernity culture embedded in it (Chua and Iwabuchi, 2008). Through this, the Korean wave has been able to enlist middle-class-founded, western-value sensitized and cross-generation, sentiment and dialogue as a part of the societal imaginary for a progressively more regionalized Asian culture.

Korean culture has been established through media including the most vital elements of attracting the attention of audience from different parts of the world. The popularity of the TV dramas of Korea depicts an indispensible factor of cultural proximity that has propelled its success. Culture is not something that people can abide to their entire life. It is not the ideas and knowledge from the ancestors and inherited through generations. Culture is a collection of reactions, ideas and expectations and is continuously changing as groups and human beings go through changes. This means that culture goes through change as human beings undergo through changes.

Conclusion

The emergence and development of the Korean wave have been of great significance to the Korean nation. Many researchers have studied this wave commonly known as ‘hallyu’ highlighting its significance and the way it has affected many societies worldwide. The Korean wave has taken charge of the East Asian nations and beyond through the media. The most influential part of the Korean wave is the Korean TV dramas that have explicated a different and fascinating view to the audience. This culture and its demonstration through the media has been influential to many societies and again impacted on the economic welfare of the nation.

Through a sociological view, the Korean wave has exhibited cultural imperialism. The Korean culture through the forces of the surrounding environment has been compelled through a natural selection based on its inhabitants and favor on the Korean people to bear characteristics that could adapt to the an environment that has been dominated by great Japanese and American cultures among others; a manner likened to natural selection postulated by Charles Darwin and which later became a basis for Durkheim’s structural functionalism theory. The Korean’s consciousnesses and neglect of false consciousnesses through government support and the media offered great support to hallyu to spread worldwide.

The Korean wave also got a major boost from the people’s in-group and out-group mentality; choosing to belong to their culture and propagating it and neglects the enticement of other cultures. The unique nature of the Koreans to media and TV drama has made it stand out in the global society. The efficacy and impact of hallyu has also been felt through Confucianism beliefs and the way of life of the Korean people. The Korean wave has therefore, been very phenomenal and has shaken other cultures that have predominantly defined and influenced other societies.

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