Media, Communication, Digitalization
This paper will present initial research into the recent rise of the divisive ‘Koreaboo’ stereotype, a label applied to young foreign women who are deemed ‘obsessed’ with Korean popular culture. These women are judged as further controversial for their adoption of Korean make-up trends and ‘cute’ behaviour (aegyo), which some criticise as cultural appropriation. The name Koreaboo is an adaptation of ‘weeaboo’, a term that originated on the derisive internet forum, 4-chan in the mid-2000s to denote an ethnically white person obsessed with Japanese popular culture to the point of adopting looks or behaviours to emulate Japanese people. Koreaboos are not exclusively white or necessarily Western (there is a strong following in South-East Asia, the Middle East and Latin America), but the stereotypical Koreaboo is considered to be a young, white Western girl, whose love for K-pop, K-dramas and K-beauty is considered amusing and misguided. In particular, this talk will reference recent findings from my study of foreigners’ use of, and attitudes towards, ‘aegyo’ and consider how the responses from this survey create a context for understanding the controversy surrounding ‘Koreaboos’. From here, I will suggest some of the wider implications of this polemic that deserve further study. For instance, is the rejection of young, white women’s infatuation with South Korean men is a new permutation of Orientalism? Or, are the ways these girls are positioned as online media ‘spectacles’ a product of latent ethno-nationalist attitudes in South Korea?