Taste Matters: Cosmopolitan Aspiration and Cultural Belonging in South Korean Culinary Dramas

Colloquium | October 17 | 4-6 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Jenny Wang Medina, Emory University

 Center for Korean Studies (CKS)

Food-related cultural content exploded in South Korea in the 2000s, becoming fodder for everything from literary fiction to video games, and turning the country and the world into a map of tasty eateries (matjip). Scholarship on food media in Korea has focused on nationalist formulations of Korean cuisine, the rise of celebrity chefs, and vicarious visual consumption through reality programming and new media formats like mŏkbang, but has not connected food media to the more literary and artistic arms of the “Global Korea Brand”. This presentation explores the popular genre of fictional culinary dramas from 2003-2013 as a narrative space where the nation’s cosmopolitan aspirations grappled with the perceived burdens of multiculturalism for domestic and international audiences. It is drawn from Dr. Medina’s book project, Constructing K-ulture: South Korea’s Quest for Cultural Capital, which argues that South Korea’s efforts to elevate Korean culture to the pantheon of world cultures has forced the country to grapple with the contradictions of its own post-developmental identity in relation to its perception of the global hierarchy of national cultures.

Jenny Wang Medina is an Assistant Professor of modern and contemporary Korean Literature, Visual Media, and Culture at Emory University. Her research focuses on questions of national/global cultures, diaspora, multiculturalism, canon formation, and translation in Korean literature, film, and popular culture. Dr. Medina is currently writing a book manuscript titled Constructing K-ulture: South Korea’s Quest for Cultural Capital. The book examines South Korea’s reconfiguration of Korean culture from tradition to a dynamic cosmopolitan culture with distinction at the turn of the 21st century through literature, film, and television. She is also developing a book project that traces the production and circulation of racialized aesthetics and ethnic identity through the global hair and beauty supply industry.

 CA, cks@berkeley.edu, 15106425674