The nascent reggaeton scene in South Korea : historical and contemporary analysis

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Kim, Jiyoung

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This work is an exploratory investigation into the origins and implications of the current reggaetón scene in South Korea. I provide historical background by tracing the course of Latin music there beginning with the Korean War in the 1950s. The postwar presence of the U.S. Army, and particularly of Puerto Rican soldiers, in the country has facilitated the dissemination of Latin music at the grassroots level. More recently, nightclubs in Seoul play reggaetón as they cater to a new generation of young Korean and Latinx cosmopolitans. The role of Korean immigrants from Latin America has and continues to be central in creating a space for the music. I interpret this aspect of Latin music’s popularization as a “counter-hegemonic” form of globalization. I take a closer look at the phenomenon in South Korea through online and offline fieldwork as well as autoethnography, focusing on class, identity formation, and gender/race stereotypes. I argue that Korean reggaetón listeners come from a higher socioeconomic class. Further, many Korean fans associate the music with their experiences abroad and the new forms of self-expression it has facilitated. Regarding gender and race, YouTube content analysis reveals that reggaetón videos reinforce the “South American woman” stereotype, even as feminists approach their sexist and hyper-masculine content more critically. I suggest that we should expand the regionalist horizons of reggaetón literature as it gains global popularity.


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