Home » Face of the Nation: Articulating a new image of Korea and Taiwan through regionally popular celebrities

Face of the Nation: Articulating a new image of Korea and Taiwan through regionally popular celebrities

Vol. 11, No. 1 (2015), 35–52


The rapid spread of popular culture within East Asia has motivated the government of each nation to promote its national image to attract tourists. This dynamic cultural exchange has not only brought these nations closer to each other, but has heightened competition in projecting new national identities through visual images projected through promotional tourism videos. This paper elaborates how Taiwan and South Korea are using regionally popular celebrities to foster local identity configurations that simultaneously reach out beyond national borders and revise longstanding ideas about the nature of their populations. Through interviews with the Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) of South Korea and the Tourism Bureau in the Ministry of Transportation and Communications of the Republic of China and analysis of cultural promotional videos such as Trip to the Heartwarming Country of Korea (released in 2010 in South Korea), Haru (released in 2011 in South Korea) and Taiwan Touch Your Heart (released in 2009 in Taiwan), I demonstrate that, through visual imagery in fashioning cultural ideals to be projected in tourist markets, Korea and Taiwan are trying to reconstruct and rebrand their national images to promote their interests. Both governments make marketing via the Korean wave a crucial part of their appeal for cultural tourism. By featuring regionally popular local celebrities, they are following strategies to promote their international standing through the dissemination of newly rearticulated national images. South Korea emphasises the quality and appeal of its popular culture, while Taiwan emphasises the openness and enthusiasm of Taiwanese towards popular foreign products and people.

Author’s bio

Dr. Sang-Yeon Loise Sung is a researcher and lecturer at the department of East Asian Studies at the University of Vienna. She received her PhD in ethnomusicology at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana with her dissertation titled “Globalization and the Regional Flow of Popular Music: The Role of the Korean Wave (Hanliu) in the Construction of Taiwanese Identities and Asian Values.” She has carried out her research into popular music and culture of Korea and Taiwan, Hallyu reception and consumption in Taiwan and Austria, and cultural policy of South Korea. Her recent research focuses on ethnographical research on K-pop reception and participatory fan culture in Europe, focusing on Austria. Her recent articles include “K-pop Reception and Participatory Fan Culture in Austria” (2014), “Digitization and Online Cultures of the Korean Wave: ‘East Asian’ Virtual Community in Europe” (2013) and “The Role of Hallyu in the Construction of East Asian Regional Identity” (2012) et al.


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