Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Media Studies


Blackmore, Tim


The focus of this dissertation is to show how the media of contemporary Korean popular culture, specifically films, are transformed into “hybrid cultural forms” through the practice of genre transformation. Since the early 21st century, South Korean popular culture has been increasingly spreading across the globe. Despite its growing attention and popularity, Korean pop culture has been criticized for its explicit copying of Western culture with no unique cultural identity. Others view the success of Korean media, both its creative mimicry and its critique of the West, as a new hybrid form that offers the opportunity for reassertion of local identity as well as challenging the global hegemony of the West. Chapter 1 explains the focus of my study and objectives, research questions, methods and background. Chapter 2 provides a literature review that examines the major scholarly works that characterize contemporary Korean film and surveys the historical development of Korean popular culture in its historical and social context. Chapter 3 considers how I approach Korean films from the perspective of theories of cultural hybridity and film genre, introducing the work of Homi Bhabha, Rick Altman, Thomas Schatz, John Cawelti and other scholars. The two chapters that follow analyze the case studies of two genre films—the Korean Western, The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008) and the post-apocalyptic sci-fi action film, Snowpiercer (2013)—to elucidate how these films function as a “hybrid cultural form,” and how the practice of genre transformation has a role in unsettling and changing the cultural messages and codes of the dominant culture’s forms. This dissertation argues that cultural hybridization is a key survival strategy of the contemporary Korean media production commercially, aesthetically and culturally. The practice of genre transformation plays a decisive role in creating cultural hybrid texts, which contribute not only to increasing cultural exchange and dissemination but also to the artistic development of cultural expression and, more importantly, to enhancing cultural diversity in an age of global transnationalism.