Inter-Asia Cultural Studies: Movements

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17.1 visual essay



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  »  Issues Contents  2009-05-19 No.1 Translation of ‘America’ during the early Cold War period: a comparative study on the history of popular music in South Korea and Taiwan


Translation of ‘America’ during the early Cold War period: a comparative study on the history of popular music in South Korea and Taiwan
SHIN Hyunjoon and HO Tunghung
The evaluation of the cold war influences played by the US on the rest of the world should not only be accounted economically and politically, but also culturally. In this paper we see the US influences on South Korea and Taiwan from the value-laden concept of Americanization and through which we examine comparatively specific practices of domestic popular music development in these two countries. Setting this paper as a historical comparative study, we see the working of Americanization in relation to popular music as a value regime in which American is constructed as an ideal model imaginatively and discursively, which was made possible by economic, social and cultural forces in South Korea and Taiwan. Focusing on the Cold War period, circa 1950s to 1960s, levels and aspects of Americanization were therefore ways of translation, to use Said's concept of traveling theory analogically; Anglo-American music genres traveled to these countries to be incorporated contextually as new or trendy conventions of music-making, which in turn helped form local music genres. The socio-historical contexts of South Korea and Taiwan, with respect to the presence of American army forces, and similar postwar anti-communist political forces, in nation-building (north-south Korea, red China-free China antagonism respectively) are central to our understanding of the visibility of Americanization in different music cultures in these two countries. This paper will go into each country's historical trajectory of music practices that took Japanese colonial influences up to the postwar time and then blending with Anglo-American genres in indigenizing that eventually marked their different paths, as we comparatively reveal their institutional, political and national cultural conditions, which were necessary in shaping each country's music-making conventions, entertainment business, and consumption cultures of popular music - and that might implicitly inform tentatively the present rivalry between 'offensive' Korean Wave and 'defensive' Taiwanese 'rockers' in the globalization era.
Keywords: Cold War in Asia; Americanization; cultural translation; Korean popular music; Taiwanese popular music
Authors’ biographies
Shin Hyunjoon is research professor in the Institute for East Asian studies (IEAS) at Sunkonghoe University. He received his PhD from the Economics Department of Seoul National University with the thesis on the transformation of Korean music industry in globalization age. His research interest includes popular music, popular culture, cultural industries and cultural policy. In 2008, he taught at Leiden University (in the Netherlands) as a visiting professor.
Ho Tung-hung is an assistant professor in Psychology Department of Fu-Jen Catholic University in Taiwan. He received his PhD from the Sociology Department of Lancaster University UK, with the dissertation The Social Formation of Mandarin Popular Music Industry in Taiwan. His research interest includes independent music, cultural politics, cultural industries and policies. Besides academic life, he is a freelance music critic and co-runs an indie live house in Taipei.

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