Social sciences are not predictive, but can only provide explanation and analysis after the fact. This is not to say that theoretical frameworks and models aren't useful to get a general sense of the way things will go, but they aren't useful as predictive models of the universe down to the point that you can see what will happen in individual cases at the micro level. However, this being said, I'm going to go ahead and make a wildly irresponsible and provocative predictive statement here today, anyway.
As I am wont to do, I'm going to make a wild prediction just for the sake of making a point. these days, you might notice that I have been blogging in a somewhat academic direction as a way of kind of preloading my dissertation writing days by getting my thoughts out into some semblance of an organized manner so they can get it out into the dissertation, or alternatively, as a way to wrestle with some of the concepts before you put them down into the dissertation.
Recently, I've been struck by the very useful concept that I found in that of “global fetish.” I lifted this concept from Hyungjung Kim's dissertation on ""Global Fetishism: Dynamics of Transnational Performances in Contemporary South Korea," in which she talks about how the notion of the “global” in South Korea became elevated to the point of a rationale that could explain just about anything, or alternatively put, as a rationalizing framework that could give meaning and worthiness to just about anything put into it, just because it promoted Korea or Korean culture in the global realm, or worked to “globalize” South Korea. the 2 major examples she presented were those of Nanta and the musical production that told one of Korea's most tragic historical tales, The Last Empress.. Our Korean cultural products and productions that are seen to be worthy of representing Korea in the global arena and market. Indeed, in recent decades, the idea of the “global” has been raised to the level of fetish, as a rationalizing desire unto itself. When combined with another prevailing wind of the times, that of “identity consumerism,” which I define as an ongoing process and tendency for people in South Korea's runaway consumer capitalist culture to define existential questions on the macro level through consumptive behavior as individuals, you get what I called “the answer” to a certain kind of existential angst that was articulated especially loudly and clearly in the early 1990s in South Korean culture -- Basically, the question of “who are we?” and "where are we going?" Became tantamount, above even the most logical question to raise, which would be, “what does this all mean?” And “was it all worth it?" Have South Korea somehow come to consider the latter two questions, I believe this would be a very different country we live in today.
However, as it happened, the former two questions were posed in the most simplistic senses, in terms of whether or not South Korean society had forgotten its original “ traditional culture" and where that would fit into a modern, new society that looked very much like the West, but which people were starting to slowly realize was not the West itself. South Korea had become the modern, shiny, successful nation it had always wanted to be, but it was becoming more apparent that there had been a hidden price. To me, an outsider an academic city and looking back on things in 2014, the price seems to have been something akin to the spiritual price one pays when you sell your daughter during hard times to pay the rent. Obviously, I'm being a bit hyperbolic, but I'm simply saying that this is a “price” that's hard to define or put into a specific lineitem or monetary figure. as it happened, the question of the price we paid startedto be posed in terms of “what we lost”. Unfortunately, the question of what was “lost” was posed in very culturally essentialist and reductionist terms. people started getting busy with concern over how many young kids hadn't grown up speaking regional dialects, or learning traditional folk songs, or playing traditional Korean musical instruments. on one side, objects and ideas of “Korean traditional culture” were grouped together against a perceived encroachment of Western, modern ways. the simple answer seemed to be that kids were too busy learning American pop music in English and not learning traditional songs and musical forms; instead of spending necessary energy speaking regional dialects, students were being pushed to learn foreign languages. as the unexpected runaway cinematic hit Sopyonje articulated, a modern and developed Korea had suffered and inevitable and unconscionable spiritual loss, akin to the loss of the very Korean soul. of course, this sparked a huge new social trend of learning Korean fishing instruments and musical forms. People, to the best of their abilities to do so, tried to solve this existential issue by simply trying to relearn the traditional arts. but as trends tend to fade with time, and as the Zeitgeist inevitably shifts, societal concerns and questions so, too, shift or fade away.
as a pose in my previous blog post, the meta-question of “who are we?" began to be easier to answer through a market framework in which individuals inevitably address the question of “who am I" through consumptive practices. has targeted marketing encourage Korean consumers to express themselves and assert individual identity through vulgar consumption, individual questions of “who am I” that had previously been posed in terms of a perceived lack of connection created by loss of a true, valid notion of Koreanness were now been answered by simply telling consumers to address the question of individual identity by displaying it through their consumptive choices.
Indeed, the LG Cyon cell phone campaigns lauded their the benefits of their cell phones, which offered many bright colors and design options -- "It's different" was the slogan. LG continued this line of marketing with its Lollipop campaign, which offered extremely bright and gaudy colors as the main draw, which link their product to the robust and important phenomenon of fashion consumption, which is very important in the South Korean market.Cyon continued this line of marketing with their "Ice Cream" campaign, likening their colorful and customizable phones to the sweet, pleasurable consumptive choice and feminized act of cutely asking for an ice cream cone. The star pushing the product, Kim Tae Hee, feminizes the phone for the target market of South korean female consumers through her quirky and colorful dress and behavior, and through the act of equivocating the choice to possess a cellphone with the simple desire to have easy access to a sweet and colorful ice cream cone. "Ice cream 주세요," indeed.
LG's "Disco Phone" ostensibly offered even more choices, those of button presses, multiple viewing angles of the phone screen, and touch function, all suddenly linked to fashion choices, since cell phones in south Korea have already been quite established as fashion choices in themselves by this time.
LG to this new heights with marketing of their “chocolate phone"” with the assistance of a major girl group and the overt linking of the choice to buy a black phone to making fashion choices.
However, LG made its most overt and obvious use of vulgar consumptive signs and symbols in its "Cooky" phone campaign, which punctuates a commercial filmed with the help of Girls' Generation with the line "[A Cooky]Sweeter than a cookie."
it just doesn't get any more vulgar than this. or does it?
To this point, I've been talking about some tendencies in Korean thinking about the perceived burning questions for society undergoing rapid modernization and change, especially as it has to do with what should be done about the loss of an essential Korean traditional center, even as that question has been partially answered through the processes outlined in the concept of "global fetish" -- utilizing traditional arts in the global productions of Nanta and musicals such as The Last Empress are key examples that I didn't have time to talk about in depth here -- as well as a consumer culture driven economy that became quite adept at posing these meta-questions in terms of personal consumptive choices. Now, I'm not saying that this was a deliberate process, for if it had been, Korean marketers would be the biggest marketing geniuses on the planet.
What I am proposing is that several separate processes in the market had started to converge and partially answer the question of how Korean tradition fits into a new modernity, even as the market started to answer the question of how new, modern Koreans should fit themselves into a new modern condition. As consumers!
now, along the way, you have a quite separate process of fetishizing pubescent and prepubescent girls in popular music and commercials -- what I'll call "Lolita fetish." whether or not South Korean society actually “approves"” of the practice, it is definitely there and has become normalized to the point that it has become mundane and cliché.
Unfortunately, I've been using cell phone commercials to illustrate my points thus far. this may turn out to be an unfortunate coincidence as I moved to the next point in my argument.
Now, as I have already set forth in a post on this topic, "identity consumerism" has rode in to become the answer to Korea's prior exitential conundrum of "Who are we and what do we do with the loss of 'tradition?'" I'll let you click on the link and review that post and relaxed those videos. and you don't have to worry—that link will open in a new window so you won't lose your place. OK - so now, we have to talk about Song Sohee, who burst into the Korean consciousness in an indelible way in ...
This is not to say no one knew who she was -- a mere novelty as a pre-teen.
It's fascinating to watch a Korean audience -- and hosts -- totally unfamiliar with the artform that is supposedly part of a "tradition" to which they themselves have become mere tourists that the traditional performer and art is treated irreverently and commodified into mere novelty and comedic curio. As is the mode of Korean television in the first place.
So, giben the way identity consumerism has already placed this little curio-girl into the commercial realm -- the real of the commercial -- where the Lolita fetish has already clamed as its stomping grounds through idol groups and the products they promote, which in itself is a commercial mode marked by "doumi" girls promoting products in places from trade shows to supermarkets -- it is inevitable that this Sohee, like the Lolita-fetishizes Ahn Sohee who came before her, willsoon become an object of extreme sexual desire for South Korean men. It's already obvious -- Jusu wait. You'll see her peforming tradition-as-curio along with mini-skirted girl group idols, young rappers punctuating the interludes, and her in a short dress as soon as the law allows.
You heard it here first. Hey, In my YouTubing research,I already came across her in go-go boots performing with Jang Yoon-jeoung, another singer who was able put a young face and miniskirt to a somewhat "old" form of music -- "trot."
Man -- it's 3:45 in the morning. I gotta go to bed. Please excuse the lack of proofreading and typos -- that's gotta come tomorrow. For now, chew on the raw ideas, please.