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Transnational Intimacies: Korean Television Dramas, Romance, Erotics, and Race

  • Author(s): Lee, Min Joo
  • Advisor(s): Mankekar, Purnima
  • et al.
Abstract

In this dissertation, I examine the gendered and racial politics of women’s transnational sex tourism. I draw on thirteen months of ethnographic fieldwork with women from Europe and North America who travel to South Korea to form intimate relations with South Korean men in a phenomenon known as Hallyu tourism. Hallyu (also known as the Korean Wave) is a transnational phenomenon whereby people from all over the world consume South Korean popular culture including music, films, and television programs. In my dissertation, I focus on the transnational popularity of romantic South Korean television dramas and how they generate erotic desires in their viewers for South Korean men. I build on interdisciplinary debates in the fields of Gender Studies, Asian Studies, and Media Studies to examine the racial, gendered, and sexual politics of the Hallyu tourists’ erotic desires and their intimate relationships with South Korea men. I argue that these transnational relationships of intimacy produce racialized discourses of South Korean masculinity emerging at the intersection of South Korean cultural conceptions of gender and transnational discourses of race. Furthermore, I suggest that these intimate encounters between South Korean men and “Western” female Hallyu tourists compel us to reconfigure binary conceptions of West versus East, national versus transnational, sex versus romance, and masculine versus feminine. By analyzing why and how the Hallyu tourists use South Korean television dramas to racially eroticize South Korean men, I demonstrate the inextricability of erotics from race and gender.

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