Episode 14: Hye Jin Lee and Cristina Visperas on the Global Fandom for K-Pop

This week, my USC colleagues Hye Jin Lee and Cristina Visperas dropped by the Julie Chin, Leslie Moonves, and CBS Studio to talk with us about the global circulation and transnational fandom around K-Pop, popular music from Korea which offers a unique fusion of hip hop influences from the United States, the Idol system from Japan, and its own spectacular performance style. Colin had overheard a hallway conversation and learned of our colleagues interests in this area, and we had to capture some of their fascinating insights for the podcast. Through K-Pop, we get some remarkable insights into gender, sexuality, race, and politics in Korea, but we also learn about differences in the media industries and fan cultures of Korea and the United States, differences which surface, in part, when fans between the two countries interact online.

Hye Jin Lee is a clinical professor of Communication at the University of Southern California, where she teaches classes on Visual Culture and Communication and Gender in Media Industries and Products, among other topics. Recently hired as an assistant professor in the USC Communications Program, Cristina Visperas is currently writing a book manuscript examining the wide-spread use of prisoners for human experimentation research in the decades following WWII.

One of our goals for How Do You Like It So Far? is to call attention to the global production and circulation of popular culture. Too often, American media acts as if U.S. popular culture was the only popular media in the world, where-as we are seeing more transnational circulation of popular culture now than ever before. Some of the spread of transnational popular culture is shaped by diaspora communities and others by what I call Pop Cosmopolitans, people seeking cultural difference as a means of escaping the parochialism of their own cultures. I am interested in the tension points that emerge at the intersection of the two forces — one seeking a return to a mother culture and the other seeking to escape their own for some place of imagined difference. K-pop offers us a great opportunity to explore what happens when these two forces intersect — part collision and part collaboration.

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