The Man in the Middle: The Korean Wave and Masculinities in China

The Man in the Middle

Principal Investigator: Roald Maliangkay (ANU, Dept of Korean Studies)

Deputy Principal Investigator: Geng Song (ANU, Dept of Chinese Studies)

In the past decade, the Korean Wave, hallyu, has demonstrated that concepts of personal style can be quickly exchanged among people of different cultures without the need of significant local adaptation. Whereas foreign fads usually cater to specific groups within a culture, the Wave has affected notions of personal style across generations and classes in a number of East Asian cultures during a relatively short period of time. Particularly interesting is the fact that even though the Wave is recognised as being Korean in origin, the elements it is defined by are not necessarily characteristic of Korea at all. In fact, many products that the Korean pop culture industries are launching are intentionally multi-cultural, which may be in part to avoid criticisms of cultural imperialism and subsequent repercussions. Yet regardless of their origin, over the past decade the attractiveness of the new concepts embedded in Korean Wave-related products has led to noticeable changes in people’s lifestyles in general and in expressions of masculinity and femininity in particular in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Southeast Asian countries.

In recent years many studies of the impact of the Wave outside Korea have focused on the effects of the Wave on women, which may be in part because women are often the prime consumers of the Wave. One study of the effects of the Wave on men exists, but it does not include adequate analysis of the foreign cultures in which the Wave’s concepts have come to be adopted. A thorough examination of how the Wave travels through neighboring cultures and spreads new discourses on masculinity would constitute a very important addition to studies of gender and culture in contemporary East Asia. What is more, expressions of gender are closely linked to notions of social class and power and are therefore important indicators of social change. Because China is Korea’s most important trading partner and an important market for many hallyu products, we therefore propose a project that focuses on the effects of the Wave on men in China, and in particular on the representation of masculinity in China and its interaction with notions of social class and power. Key questions:

  1. What effects does the Korean Wave have on men and masculinities in China (in various ways, eg fashion, lifestyle, linguistic changes, etc.)?
  2. What does the phenomenon tell us about cultural hybridity and cultural filtering in the process of cross-cultural transformation of male images and discourses of masculinity?
  3. In what ways does the endorsement of hallyu products or ideas affect or reflect established notions of social class and power?
  4. How do masculinities differ between those in Hong Kong, Beijing, and the Korean autonomous region of Yanbian?

Updated:  17 February 2016/Responsible Officer:  Director, Korea Institute/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team