Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis


Politics and International Relations

Reader 1

Kimberly Drake

Reader 2

Thomas Kim

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© 2014 Zaneh M. Williams


South Korea is internationally well known for its ethnic and cultural homogeneity, economic and technical success, and strong sense of nationalism. The peoples of South Korea have flourished economically after a series of colonizations, industrialization and political chaos. Over the past few decades, Korea has gained interest internationally for its entertainment industry through the Korean Wave (or Hallyu in Korean). Korean Wave is a term that refers to the increase in the popularity of South Korean culture since the late 1990’s due to Korean music, television shows and fashion. The Korean Wave first swept and captivated the hearts of citizens in East and Southeast Asia and now has expanded its popularity beyond Asia and has captivated millions of people all over the world. After a steady increase in cultural exports as a result of the Korean Wave since 2005, the Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) has realized the value in the exportation of Korean culture and goods and has now created programs that capitalize on this popularity and increase tourists South Korea. Korean popular music or K-Pop is a large and profitable aspect of the Korean Wave. According to CNBC in Move Over Bieber — Korean Pop Music Goes Global

“The [k-pop] industry’s revenues hit about $3.4 billion in 2011, according to the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), a government group that promotes the country’s cultural initiatives. K-pop’s exports also rose to $180 million last year — jumping 112 percent compared to 2010. Exports have been growing on an average annual rate of nearly 80 percent since 2007.” And that “for every $100 of K-Pop exports, there was an average increase of $395 worth of I.T. goods such as cell phones or electronics that were being exported” (Naidu-Ghelani).

The exportation of K-pop music and cultural can be seen as an economic success story. But in fact, for the Black American community it is the exportation of cultural appropriation and the degradation of Black American culture.

The Korean Wave is packaging, promoting and exporting a “window into Korean culture, society and language that can be as educational as a trip to Korea. South Korea is using the Korean wave to promote its traditional culture within Korea and abroad” (“Hallyu, the Korean Wave” 1). Despite South Korea’s strong sense of nationalism and cultural homogeneity, its pop music has a distinct Black American musical influence. Rap and hip-hop musical style/culture (which is distinctly affiliated with representative of Black Americans) is an integral, if not necessary, part of Korean popular music. The synchronized dance moves, attractive idols and “rap/hip hop” style draws in millions of fans from every walk of life all over the world. The “hip hop” dance moves, clothing and lyrics that dominate Korean popular music, however crosses the line of cultural appreciation and instead can be defined as cultural appropriation.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.