Imaginary of East Asia Evoked by the Transnational Popularity of Korean TV Dramas

  • Xiaodan Liu

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Korean TV drama, most of which is romantic melodrama, characterized by exaggerated emotions, stereotypical characters, and interpersonal conflicts, account for at least 80%of the total exports of (South) Korean popular culture. Regarding to the fact of Korean drama’s sudden rise and sustained boom in East Asia for over two decades, the previous studies suggest a commonly identified culture named East Asia responsible for the transnational popularity of Korean dramas. Instead of thinking East Asia as a given cultural fact as in the previous studies, my research studies it as an imagined community constructed by a shared sense of enjoyment. In order to define the nature of East Asia in relation to Korean dramas in particular, my research firstly examines the East Asian history of modernization with the Lacanian version of the theory of the Oedipus Complex in order to address the unconscious desire produced during the symbolic castration by modernity shared by members of East Asia. Along with the pre-modern past (tradition) bonded with the ethnicity (yellow Asian) as a sign of the lack, East Asia is being defined as a ‘female’ in the western capitalist modern discourse. The desire for legitimatizing the denied past in the modern discourse to reclaim a cultural authority for a new and more ideal subject is what initiated the imagination of East Asia in the first place. The paper concludes by showing how Korean dramas work to create an Utopian experience by making the impossibility in relation to the irreconcilable conflicts between East Asia past represented by Confucian tradition and the capitalist west possible again.
Date of AwardJan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University


  • East Asia
  • KoreanTV Dramas
  • Imaginary
  • Oedipus Complex
  • Hybridity
  • Pleasure

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