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K-Pop in Latin America: Identity, Fandom, and Digital Culture

Fri, March 27, 8:30 to 10:30am, Chicago Sheraton Hotel & Towers, Floor: Lobby, Level 3, Parlor D


The recent global dispersion of K-pop across the world is receiving a lot of media attention, but scholars have overlooked its popularity and significance in Latin America. Despite the lack of shared linguistic, cultural, and geographical proximity between South Korea and Latin American countries, K-pop has unexpectedly resonated well with youths in Peru and Chile. Nevertheless, K-pop cannot be understood simply as a hybrid meta-textual genre or as a transnational vector of global media culture, since it creatively syncretizes elements from both the American and Japanese pop. Rather, the popularity of K-pop in Latin America needs to be critically examined as a subculture stemming from an intricate and conflated web of different socio-economic, political, and cultural factors between South Korea and Latin America. Moreover, the broadcast of Spanish dubbed Korean dramas on “TV abierta” (terrestrial TV stations) have played a key role in expanding the K-pop fandom, as well as transforming digital cultural practices in Latin America. For instance, a live online radio station known as K-pop Mexico was established to stream K-pop music to Latin American listeners, and to provide a discussion forum in which fans can discuss about their favorite K-pop songs and artists. This essay explores how the aforementioned socio-economic and cultural dimensions have contributed to the transnationalization of K-pop in Latin America. Based on oral interviews with online radio DJs, cover dance groups and fans, the essay explicates how the popularity of K-pop, as a subcultural phenomenon, has transformed digital media and fan culture, as well as cultural identities of youths in Latin America.