Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

Korean TV Dramas in the Digital Age: Mobility, Morality, and Melodrama across Neoliberal Asia

Sun, June 26, 5:00 to 6:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: BF, 010


The enormous popularity of two recent Korean serial dramas, The Heirs (2013) and My Love From the Star (2013), particularly in Chinese-speaking regions, seems to signal a shift in the pattern by which Korean TV dramas reach a global audience in the new digital age. By creating millions of online viewers, these K-dramas have aptly availed themselves of Internet content providers in order to garner instant appeal beyond the constraints of time, geography, and institutional protocols. The changing media environment has not merely yielded favorable conditions for different ways of watching TV series, it has also intensified the fluid, indeterminate, and interrupted nature of enjoying a televisual text that is in the process of being produced. The immediate and extensive circulation of each episode via video-streaming websites and social networking services has opened up a transnational space in which more diverse groups of consumers can participate in making sense of the segmented flow of contemporary Korean popular culture. To explore the broader and subtler implications of the two K-dramas’ unprecedented successes, this paper pays close attention to the ways in which these series inflect the rich tradition of melodramatic narratives in Korean TV culture. Through the spectacle of excess, the serial texts made in 2013 effectively unfold the fantasy of mobility and the imperative of morality, both of which have become more intense and urgent than ever precisely because they are considered less likely to actually occur given the rapid ascendance of neoliberal economics and policies in Asia.