Daejanggeum as ‘affective mobilization’: lessons for (transnational) popular culture and civil society
Lisa Yuk Ming LEUNG
(Transnationalized) popular culture and (global) social movement are often seen as unrelated, if not mutually exclusive. Popular culture is entertaining, consensual but trivial; social movement is serious, idealized and oppositional. Yet the WTO Ministerial Conference, held in Hong Kong in December 2005, saw the Korean protesters' adoption of the theme-song of a popular Korean television drama, Daejanggeum, as their protest strategy. The Korean protesters had been framed by mainstream Hong Kong media as 'violent rioters', but the inclusion of the drama elements helped the protesters advance their cause by gaining instant rapport with the local Hong Kong news media and public/fans (of Korean wave). The impact of celebrity involvement in the WTO was also about an immediate transferal of fan affect, from celebrities to the movement, and to the Korean protesters. This 'affect mobilization', becomes important as movement capital, as the effective manipulation of emotions is a key to 'getting the message across' as movement strategies. The case of WTO Hong Kong reveals the possibility of a symbiotic relationship between transnational popular culture and globalized social movements. The 'use' of (Korean) popular cultural products enriches and complicates the affect subjectivities within the social movement, and arranges fan affect into multiple layers of emotion hierarchies/spheres. It remains to be seen, however, if this would set a precedence to protesters in future WTO rounds as they are keen to mobilize their causes in different locales. More research is needed, too, to demonstrate if the success of the Korean wave fosters the emergence of a transnational Asian 'public' or civil society. Yet, for now, the success of Korean protesters in the mobilization of Hong Kong public's affect epitomizes the hegemonic flow, or soft power, of Korean TV dramas in the Asian popular.
Keywords: Korean TV dramas; (transnational) popular culture; (globalized) social movement; affective mobilization; civil society; soft power; Korean wave; celebrities; Lee Young Ae; Daejanggeum
Lisa Yuk Ming LEUNG teaches in the Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University, Hong Kong. She has done extensive research in the popular media flows across Asia in recent years, namely, the Japanese and Korean wave, adopting both the cultural industry approach as well as audience studies. She has published widely on these topics. Recently, she has begun to focus on the relationship between popular culture and social movements, and has co-published a book entitled Big Event: Reporting on the WTO Hong Kong (in Chinese).