Hybridity, Confucianism, and Ambiguity in the South Korean Soft Power Model in Hallyu 1.0

© Media Watch 12 (1) 149-160, 2021
ISSN 0976-0911 | E-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2021/v12i1/205464

Article | Open Select 

Hybridity, Confucianism, and Ambiguity in
the South Korean Soft Power Model in Hallyu 1.0 

Fung Ying Loo1, Fung Chiat Loo2
1University of Malaya, Malaysia
2Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia 

Received: 13 November 2020| Accepted: 27 December 2020|Published: 5 January 2021



This paper aims to analyze K-drama’s phenomenon as a popular cultural product that generated Hallyu 1.0 and South Korea’s soft power. Past literature suggests this manufactured television drama is a hybrid of ancient Eastern values and Western modernity that resulted in a female-centric and youth consumption. Confucianism and family values are discussed as a backbone of K-drama’s narrative. On the other hand, the “reserved romance” and conservativeness that led to a particular focus on gendering male K-drama actors invited much debate around the new label of “soft masculinity.” However, we question the absence of discussion and detailed analysis of major elements in the Korean popular cultural production that we found are similar to many identical Western models, including the theme song as the catalyst of Hallyu 2.0, “reserved romance,” and ambiguity in the discussion of image branding among male idols, that may not fully reflect claims of Confucianism.


 Keywords: Korean drama, soft power, confucianism, media imperialism, Hallyu, hybridity, music



The emergence of the Korean wave or Hallyu and its development in the film industry has been likened to the American Hollywood, hence the name Hallyuwood (Teo, 2013, p. 177). Over the past two decades, there has been a growing number of studies on Hallyu and South Korean (hereafter Korean) soft power. This transnational popular culture’s success played an important role in the generation of soft power, beginning with its television drama (Korean drama, hereafter K-drama). Journalist Lansky labeled the sudden success of Hallyu as a “Hallyu Tsunami” (2012). Scholars have categorized Hallyu into four phrases: Hallyu 1.0 that focused on K-drama, Hallyu 2.0 on K-pop, Hallyu 3.0, focused on culture, and Hallyu 4.0, the present phenomenon of K-style (Kim, 2015; Lee, 2015; Lim, 2016). 

South Korean soft power’s success, the economic revival since the 1997 Asian economic crisis, and its method of tackling the International Monetary Fund bailout package’s payback is particularly exemplary (Kim, 2018). As Joo (2011) explained, in the early 1990s, the Korean film industry was marginalized due to Hollywood’s dominance. However, the production of K-drama, originally for domestic consumption, resulted in international success that was “unplanned and accidental” (Kim, 2013, p. 6). Many academic studies were published after the K-drama Winter Sonata gained a huge reputation when it was broadcast in 2002 and exported to other countries in Asia (Lee, 2008; Jung, 2009; Jin & Yoon, 2016). When K-drama was exported to China, it was unexpectedly popular and hence the word Hanliu, literally “Korean wave” in Chinese, was first coined by the Chinese Beijing Youth Report on 19 November 1999 (Bae et al., 2017; Chua & Iwabuchi, 2008; Lee, 2009; Lee, 2015). Later it was more commonly referred to in academic literature in the Korean form Hallyu.

The 1990s became Korea’s television era, with broadcasting companies such as SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System), KBS (Korea Broadcasting System), and MBC (Munhwa Broadcasting Company) competing to gain audience attention and ratings. The success of television drama is considered the pioneer among popular cultural products; hence, it was Hallyu 1.0. The dramas What is Love All About and Stars in My Heart in the late 1990s began to gain attention in Asia, while it was Winter Sonata by KBS in the early 2000s that created a peak in Hallyu 1.0 (Shim, 2008). When Winter Sonata was broadcast in China and Japan, K-drama’s popularity resulted in the sudden phenomenon of Hallyu 1.0 (Jang & Paik, 2012). The increase in Japanese tourism in Korea to visit film locations used by Winter Sonata (Hirata, 2008), described by Joo as a “pilgrimage” (2011), led to a rise in the number of foreign tourists to Korea. Bae et al. observed a fourfold increase in the number of foreign tourists to Korea due to the locations used in K-drama (2017). The success of K-drama immediately led to a development in the film industry that later earned the label of Hallyuwood (Elaskary, 2018; Teo, 2013; Yecies & Shim, 2011). Unlike the early 1990s, foreign programs were marginalized, and television broadcasts were dominated by local productions (Joo, 2011).

In terms of the characteristics of Hallyu, some scholars such as Lee (2008), Jang and Paik (2012), and Dal (2013), described the phenomenon and its cultural productions as hybridity of East and West. Some scholars such as Lin and Tong (2008), Jung (2010), Kim (2013), and Dal and Kyong (2016), emphasized that K-drama revealed an old-East characteristic that featured romance in a Confucianist and conservative approach. Shim (2008) describes Winter Sonata as a “tear-jerker,” its male actor Bae Yong-Joon in particular, first attracted attention from female Japanese viewers and then those in other Asian countries as well. On the other hand, Yang (2008) suggested Korean drama was modeled on the Taiwanese ouxiangju (trendy drama), which used popular stories by Taiwanese romance author Qiongyao, so the characteristic of “tear-jerker” may be a genre that attracted Asian viewers, and revealed a mimic of past television drama model. Cho (2010) proposed two perceptions of K-drama, one that sees the productions as “Korean nationalism,” and the other that describes its “global universalism” as being adaptable by viewers of any cultural background. 

Although a more recent article by Ju (2018) presents a detailed argument about the Korean Wave as cultural hybridity, however, we surmised that claims made by scholars who relate the manufactured Korean television drama productions to Eastern influence, Confucianism, and Korean nationalism, may need further research, by tracing back to models of past transnational popular culture from that of the West. Also, we found some themes that relate K-drama to elements of Confucianism and Eastern aesthetics to be ambiguous. Therefore, this paper argues that K-drama’s model has a strong Western influence instead of being a mere valorization of Confucianism. In particular, from a global media and entertainment perspective, the aspects of K-drama’s “reserved romance,” narrative, male character branding, and music may seem to resuscitate past popular cultural models from those of the West. In general, popular culture emanates from media culture, which is the multiplication of numerous media outlets. One study states that popular Television Soap Operas create modern women’s popular culture, which has opened up academic probes (Mehra, 2019). The following sections first discuss the study’s methodology, then revisit K-drama’s characteristics that generated Hallyu 1.0, the influence of Confucianism and family values, narratives, and transnational consumption patterns. 



In this study, a theoretical research framework was applied. As Gratton and Jones (2010) explained, theoretical research may not provide an empirical outcome; however, a study of this type seeks new theories or identifies issues and solutions to the research subject via an analysis of past literatures. In this study, the first phase is an analysis of past literature on Hallyu. We re-visit the introduction of Hallyu 1.0 as the beginning of Korean soft power, identify patterns of the K-drama model, and its transnational success.

The second phase was guided by a reflexive account of global media entertainment consumption, particularly that of the West since the early 1970s, including past trends of popular Taiwanese and Japanese dramas of the 1980s and 1990s, to identify past models of popular culture that are reflected in K-drama. In our analysis, we discuss some important elements of K-drama that contributed to the first wave of Korean soft power, particularly questioning some elements that may be deemed contradictory to claims of Confucianism. 


Confucianism and the Yonsama Syndrome in the Narrative of K-Drama


Past studies of Hallyu and K-drama’s characteristics focused on a few elements related to Confucianism: family values, ‘soft masculinity,’ and conservatism in romance. However, these elements may be multifariously adapted from various East and West influences in depicting Korean-ness and Korean modernity in its drama productions. The productions were reviewed by scholars as “impure” with ‘unexpected mixing and mingling of cultural materials’ (Jenkins, Ford, & Green, 2013, p. 263; Dal & Kyong, 2014). Revisiting the past transnational success of East Asian television dramas before Hallyu 1.0, Chua and Iwabuchi (2008) described some traits that include period dramas featuring complicated family issues from Taiwan in the 1980s, and modern Japanese romance among elites displaying well-dressed young professionals with luxurious lifestyles in the 1990s, and that the later K-drama began to take its position in the late 1990s after the decline in popularity of Japanese drama. The literature on K-drama has discussed its genre as a hybridized production, and most scholars highlighted that it has a Confucianist value (Lin & Tong, 2008; Jung, 2010; Kim, 2013; Dal & Kyong, 2016). Just as Yang (2008) argued that the romantic plots influenced K-drama in Taiwanese Qiongyau’s, it is possible to see traces of mimicry of past transnational models of other East Asian productions. On the other hand, some scholars observed a mimicry of Western modernity in the Korean productions (Shim, 2006; Jang & Paik, 2012; Yamakawa, 2014), where “media imperialism” of the West as described by Boyd-Barrett (2013) can be seen in K-drama productions. 

A recurring theme in the literature is Confucian values in K-drama in the early 2000s that focused on family values (Lee & Ju, 2010; Sung, 2013; Dal & Kyong, 2014). The association with Confucianism resulted in two frequently mentioned elements highlighted in K-drama: “soft masculinity,” and a narrative focused on family values and conservative romance, that attracted a majority of female viewers (Hirata, 2008; Huang, 2011). An emphasis on male actors’ image branding, in particular, has a close tie to Confucianism. The sudden ascendancy of Hallyu 1.0 owes much to the drama Winter Sonata that became a sudden craze among middle-aged Japanese women indulging in its romance and “good-looking actors” (Hayashi & Lee, 2007, p. 197). Various descriptions of Winter Sonata such as a “tear-jerker” (Shim, 2008, p. 26), “soap opera with the tragic ending of love” (Cho, 2010, p. 6), and “an epoch-making encounter with a new ‘Korea’” (Hayashi & Lee, 2007, p. 199) may not fully illustrate its transnational success. Korean alternative masculinity that became a fantasy among female viewers contributed to K-drama’s success and drew much attention from scholars (Nagayama, 2017). A particular focus on male actors’ characteristics and sentimentalism in K-drama attracted attention, especially among female viewers (Boyd-Barrett, 2013), which relates to gender and performativity (Loo & Wong, 2010; Milestone & Meyer, 2021). Since the broadcast of Winter Sonata in other Asian countries such as China, Japan, and Malaysia, a sudden admiration of its male actor Bae Yong Jun became a popular cultural hype among female viewers. Due to its popularity, the drama was repeated up to four times by NHK in Japan. The lead male actor Bae became extremely popular and resulted in what scholars labeled as the Yonsama syndrome (Mōri, 2008; Kim, 2013). Jung explained that the character played by Bae in Winter Sonata displayed a “soft masculinity,” and that the oeyunaegang (“strong inner will”) character with tender physical outlook reflected that of the Confucian tradition of seonbi (2010, p. 54), defined by Choi (2006) as a gentleman scholar of the Goryeo dynasty, and was admired by a majority of female viewers.

After the mention of yonsama syndrome and Bae, studies on gendering Korean male idols increased. Nagayama (2017) discussed how the Korean’s soft masculinity surpassed that of the Japanese “macho” character as their sentimental traits evoked a fantasy in the female gaze. An earlier study by Kozhakhmetova (2012) employed the word kkonminam or “flower boys” to depict the case of “soft masculinity” in Korean male idols. It explained that the image branding was an effective media strategy, seen in the rise of kkonminam, which led to an increase in match-making services for Japanese women to find Korean husbands. In a recent study by Lee (2020), she explained the effect of mediatized and stereotypical male characters of K-drama and how tourists were drawn to these stereotypical male characters who displayed attractive physical traits and, at the same time, being gentle and caring. As Kim observed, the idea of innocent sexuality played a role in the later Hallyu 2.0 of K-pop (2011).

In Tambunan’s study of an Indonesian audience, common descriptors such as “pretty,” “beautiful,” “fair and smooth skin, curly eyelashes, soft and stylish hair, and even manicure-pedicured nails” given to Korean male idols were mentioned by a majority of female respondents (2015, p. 87), that reveal a similarity with the term kkonminam. Yamakawa (2014) explained that aside from bishonen’s influence and the global metrosexual identity, the kkonminam traits include a significant portion of time spent on grooming and make-up, including cosmetic surgery, alongside soft-spoken and caring manners and a physical outlook of innocence and politeness. Also, discussion of K-drama masculinity included hybridity of image branding that combines an Asian face and Western physical traits, such as seen in actor-singer Rain’s muscular and slender body (Ngo, 2015). Jung’s summary may be closer to revealing Korean’s soft masculinity as a combination of Chinese Confucianism as in the wen (literary) tradition, influence from Japanese manga’s bishonen or pretty boys, and a global metrosexual trait (2010). Similar findings by Murell describe the “flower boys” or kkonminam with big rounded eyes, V-shaped chins, and clear skin (2019, p. 217). Thus, the portrayal of a muscular body on a Confucianist wen character depicts a perfection that results from a combination of literary or cultivated-martial “wen-wu” dyad. Boyd-Barrett added that they portrayed a feminine aesthetic and sensitivity (2013). Thus, the kkonminam phenomenon with descriptors such as “soft or delicate” invited discussion of androgyny (Laurie, 2016, p. 211).

Reviewing past literature on Hallyu 1.0, many studies focused on the K-drama actors’ soft masculinity and attractiveness as reasons for its positive reception among female viewers. The same theme was furthered discussed in the second wave of Hallyu that Shim described as the “pretty faces and powerful dance moves” in K-pop (2008, p. 25). However, there is still a lack of discussion of K-idols’ de-racialized appearance due to cosmetic surgery, which has been criticized on social media platforms. The issue is linked to the sensitive and derogatory label of “whitewashing,” alluding to the corrected skin-tone of K-pop idols, which reflects Parameswaran’s description of “techno capitalist whiteness” in the study of Bollywood actresses (2011, p. 77). Ahn (2015) observed that viewers perceived white supremacy as elite status and aesthetics in Korean media consumption. Most studies that mention the case of “whitewashing” focus on K-pop instead of its origin in Hallyu 1.0 (Butsaban, 2019; Kyong, 2019). Tracing the K-idol’s kkonminam identity with Japanese manga’s bishonen’s influence reveals the same physical traits. This matter may need revisiting as the latter’s image reflects a Caucasian physiognomy. Thus, we found that the claims of Confucianism may not fully illustrate K-drama’s transnational success. Mere claims of the much mediatized “soft masculinity” in the realm of Confucianism may need further textual analysis from a global point of view. 

On the other hand, we found that the characteristics of conservativeness and “reserved romance” in K-drama may signal another mimic of the Western Disney production that lacks discussion in past literature. Past studies revealed that the character branding of reserved Confucianist values, soft masculinity, and innocence in K-drama resulted in another element that attracted its viewers: its romantic narrative of what scholars depicted as “pure” and “innocent” love (Lin & Tong, 2008; Lee & Ju, 2010; Joo, 2011; Dal & Kyong, 2016). Scholars such as Lin and Tong (2008), Jung (2010), Kim (2013), and Dal and Kyong (2016) describe the romance in K-drama as reserved with Confucianist values. Jang and Paik (2012) explained how K-drama differs from that of the American and Latin American “overt sexuality” in their drama productions (p. 198), as Kim (2013) explained that Asians more preferred a reserved and conservative approach. In terms of its narrative, a common theme of a “Cinderella narrative” was employed by scholars to described K-drama that resulted in escapism among its viewers who indulged in the fantasy (Jang & Paik, 2012; Ko et al., 2014). However, there was a lack of discussion on Western Disney’s or “fairytale” model based on the apparent codes. Ko et al. (2014) explained that the fairytale themes that were presented in many K-drama such as Star in my Heart, Autumn in My Heart, and Boys over Flower revealed a patriarchal position in which heroines of lower status received help from rich, attractive upper-class male leads (Ko et al.,2014). Thus, K-drama evoked a fantasy that brought viewers an imagined escape from unpleasant reality (Han, 2019). The “fairytale-like” revival appears to be an important element in Korean soft power generation may need more analysis and discussion. 

Apart from the popular elements among scholars’ discussion, the music employed in K-drama that garnered a high reputation during Hallyu 1.0 received little attention in past studies compared to Hallyu 2.0 that focused on K-pop. Although the theme songs from K-drama gained much success and popularity, as “standalone ballads,” as Frith (2001) described based on American film music, there is a particular lack of studies that analyze the music in K-drama apart from Kim’s doctoral dissertation (2015) and Keller (2019) who analyzed how music was employed in K-drama. The notion of “big ballad” and “standalone ballads” has long been discussed in film productions of the West (Frith, 2001, p. 104). Still, there is a lack of studies that analyze K-drama’s musical style that has an apparent Western neo-romantic influence, and more importantly, music to evoke fantasy. As Jung (2011) observed, Western art music is a popular genre studied by many Koreans, and with the fact that the function of music in film and television plays an important role, familiarity and preference over Westernized music and instrumentation may be another vital element in the generation of Hallyu 1.0 based on the contemporary audience in the global era. We found that the music in K-drama reveals hybridity of the modern popular genre with Western neo-romantic style requires further study from a film and television music perspective to provide more theories in looking at K-drama’s hybridity, a revival of neo-romanticism, and what constitute its model of influence from a global perspective, instead of a mere focus on Confucianism.  


Hallyu 1.0 as a Transnational Popular Culture


Since Hallyu 1.0, the transnational wave of K-drama has impacted countries from Asia to Latin America. Kim and Nye (2013) explained how Korea generated its soft power, making its culture attractive and exporting its media products to other countries. As Joo observed, this Korean wave resulted in better marketing of Hyundai cars and Samsung mobile phones. K-stars became ambassadors for international brands such as Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. This role had been previously dominated by Western celebrities (2011). Patterns of K-drama consumption differ according to geographical proximity and trends in popular culture. Countries in East and Southeast Asian regions such as China, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore embraced Hallyu initially, unlike the Latin American countries that experienced the Korean wave’s peak only at the beginning of Hallyu 2.0 (Min, 2017). Hallyu‘s initial impact was felt in Japan and China, with repeated airings of Winter Sonata in the early 2000s. Huang (2011) and Joo (2011) explained that K-drama was an alternative to the more costly Japanese drama. However, immediate success was witnessed in Japan after Winter Sonata was broadcast, whereas Daejanggeum, on the other hand, had unexpected popularity in Hong Kong in 2005 (Shim, 2008). 

Countries in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East experienced the wave mostly from the beginning of 2006 to the present (Min, Jin & Han, 2018). Han (2019) looked into the unexpected transnational success of K-drama in Latin America despite the absence of a common language and culture. He found that its storylines that displayed the struggle of social class in modernity in the form of a fantasy appealed to viewers. Kim and Nye (2013) explained how the Korean government focused on a non-economic approach by spreading its K-drama Winter Sonata to countries like Egypt and Iraq in the mid-2000s as a complementary gesture, by covering the fee for subtitles translated into Arabic. Similarly, Korean Cultural Embassies offered free dramas such as Winter Sonata and All About Eve to Latin America (see Han, 2019, p. 41). In Egypt’s case, it was reported that thousands of locals contacted the Korean Embassy with requests, including K-drama stars to visit the country and expression of interest to tour Korea (Nye & Kim, 2019). Furthermore, the growth of Korean language schools or departments has become evident since the Korean Wave. 

Aside from the fact that K-dramas were sold more cheaply than Japanese ones, many scholars found that the popularity of K-drama revealed a female-led consumption due to a strong focus on romance (Shin, 2007; Siriyuvasak & Hyunjoon, 2007; Jung, 2011; Jiang & Leung, 2012; Ainslie, 2015; Lyan & Levkowitz, 2015). Like other scholars, Otmazgin and Lyan (2014), in their study of Israeli fans, observed that most female fans were in their late teens or early twenties when the drama My Lovely Kim Sam Soon, broadcast in Israel in 2006, ignited the wave there. Another study on K-drama viewers revealed that China has the youngest age group, followed by Chinese Taiwanese and Japanese (Yang, 2012). Also, Kang et al. (2014) found that, despite the popularity of K-drama, the majority of viewers of K-drama were those with lower income and education level or those with a higher education level but lower income, whilst a majority of viewers with a higher income still preferred American dramas. Lu et al. (2019), in their study on Chinese viewers, found that cultural proximity explained involvement with K-drama while genre proximity and enjoyment belonged to American dramas. 

Studies by Lin and Tong (2008), Jung (2010), Kim (2013), and Dal and Kyong (2016) may explain how the conservative and Confucianist romance with attractive leads played a major role in K-drama reception among younger and female viewers. Other authors added that it was the “Cinderella theme” in K-drama that provided its viewers with escapism, such as Ko et al.’s study on Peruvian female viewers in a patriarchal society (Jang & Paik, 2012; Ko et al., 2014). More importantly, a romantic story with manufactured or commercialized idols with attractive physical appearance led to Hallyu’s phenomenon (Elfving-Hwang, 2018; Galbraith, 2018). Most particularly notable was the yonsama syndrome that began the first wave of Korean soft power among Japanese female viewers (Hirata 2008). In the case of Malaysia, Shim (2008) explained the impact of K-drama was a prominent one, to the extent that two male singers composed a song I am not Song Seung Heon to depict their feelings of jealousy due to their girlfriends’ parasocial relationship with the male lead of Autumn in My Heart, Song Seung Heon. Besides, the family values and conservative approach to romance highlighted in K-drama made it easily adapted to viewers from different cultural and religious backgrounds. Cho (2010) explained that K-drama displayed a combination of “Korean nationalism” and “Global universalism” from his survey of Malaysian viewers (p. 8).

Similarly, Lim (2015) explained how K-drama’s conservative approach fitted with the Malaysian Film Censorship Board and Islamic principles. Also, Jang and Paik (2012) also observed positive reception in other Islamic countries. They explained that Middle Eastern countries found that the romantic display was subtle and portrayed loyal Korean heroes in Daejanggeum and Jumong were exemplary. Shim (2008) explained that Winter Sonata won hearts due to its lead actor Bae Yong Joon; however, it was Daejanggeum that created a bigger reception over Korean popular culture. This period drama that depicts a royal chef’s story in the Joseon dynasty led to increased attention paid to culture and hansik (Korean cuisine). The drama sales were reported to include 120 countries, including the Americas and Europe (Kim, 2013). The impact of Daejanggeum resulted in increased consumption of hansik; Cho (2010) observed the growing numbers of Korean restaurants in Malaysia. 

In terms of K-drama consumption, Hallyu tourism (or film-induced tourism) became another theme documented by scholars increase in Japanese tourists in Korea to visit film locations used by Winter Sonata (Hirata, 2008), described by Joo as a “pilgrimage” (2011) when there was a sudden craze for Japanese and Chinese tourists to visit Korea due to the influence of K-drama. Hirata (2008) investigated Japanese women and their perception of Hallyu tourism and found that Winter Sonata had influenced most women in their 40s to visit K-drama shooting locations. A decade later, Bae et al. (2017) analyzed foreign tourists’ increase to Korea from the United States, China, and Japan since the beginning of Hallyu 1.0. Furthermore, the scholars found that medical tourism, especially cosmetic treatment, had increased due to the Korean wave. Dramas that particularly inspired Hallyu tourism are Winter Sonata, Autumn in My Heart, and Daejanggum. Ancuta (2015) believes that Korean dramas led to an interest in Korean films, where actors and musicians attracted foreign tourists to Korea. After the broadcast of K-drama and Hallyu, suddenly Korea became a popular destination (Joo, 2011), demonstrating the generation of its soft power. In a more recent article by Lee (2020), the author argued that Hallyu tourism should be studied in transnational intimacy. It was induced by the desire for romance and attractive male actors seen in K-drama instead of cultural proximity and orientalism. 



With Hallyu 1.0, Korea took the role of a global key player that generated a transnational popular culture. Its K-drama is replacing Japanese drama, where K-drama trends are a commercialized form of culture (Nye & Kim, 2013). Its drama production managed to capture the essence of “winning hearts and minds…in a global information age” that led to the success of co-option that generated its soft power (Nye, 2004, p. 1). Based on the review of past literature and patterns of K-drama productions, it is possible to gather that the core of Korean soft power in Hallyu 1.0 is the marketing of “romance” innocence” and “fantasy,” one that we believe should be further analyzed by looking at the concepts of “Disneyfication” and Ritzer’s “McDonaldization” (1983). 

Although it is difficult to conceptualize the first Korean Wave based on a single theoretical framework, and Ju (2018) suggested implications for further research based on the perception of Korean Wave as a “unique cultural flow,” however, we gathered that the commodification of K-drama and its model of success has a strong relation to past transnational popular cultural models that have not been identified in past scholarship on Hallyu 1.0. We posit that the model that ignited Hallyu 1.0  may need more details by tracing onto its origins from past Western models, such as Disneyfication, Western fairy-tale revival, neo-romanticism, and “big ballad,” these include the physicality of K-stars’ amorphous ethnicity as defined by K-drama and the later K-pop, as the representative of modern Korean image, may need further research on the issues of de-racialization and white supremacy (see Qian, 2014; Elfving-Hwang, 2016), instead of a mere focus on Confucianism. 

Funding: This research work has been supported by the Ministry of Higher Education under the Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS/1/2020/WAB10/UM/02/1).

Conflicts of Interest: The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.   



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Fung Ying Loo (Ph.D., Musicology, University of Sheffield, 2009) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Music at Cultural Centre, University of Malaya, Malaysia. She specializes in cultural musicology and performance.


Fung Chiat Loo (Ph.D., Music Performance, University of Sheffield, 2005) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Music at Faculty of Human Ecology, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia. She specializes in performance practice and musicology.  


Corresponding Author: Fung Ying Loo, Associate Professor, Cultural Centre, Level 2, Old Canseleri Building, University of Malaya, 50603, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.



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