The global popularity of Korean popular culture, or the Korean Wave (Hallyu), has been examined by many scholars from diverse disciplines. Although Youjeong Oh's Pop City: Korean Popular Culture and the Selling of Place is on the same trajectory, her work is distinct in the way that she delves into how and why Korean popular culture has created an instrumental relationship with local municipalities and urban places. By focusing on K-drama and K-pop, Oh explores the impact of the reciprocal relationship on the industry and fan consumption. She argues that “popular culture confers affective values on place” (p. 17), and Korean landscapes play a big part in the way Korean popular culture is produced and consumed. This book invites readers to look closer at how the synergies between abstract popular culture and physical places emerge, and what kind of cultural and socioeconomic impact they have.

Pop City consists of two parts. In the first part, Oh explores the nature of Korean drama production. Along with a historical overview of drama production from the 1980s to the 2010s, Oh demonstrates how local municipalities and independent producers referred to as “marginal cities” and “marginal producers,” respectively, depend on each other to solve their own problems, derived from the fact that regional cities have been marginalized by the development of the Seoul Metropolitan Area (sudogwŏn), and independent drama producers have been marginalized by the industry's structure. As such, unevenness is an important concept to understand why two marginals go hand in hand. By describing the process of their relationships and analyzing K-drama scenes, Oh also explains why such stories are told in particular ways in K-dramas and how fan tourists reinterpret the places after the drama ended. She sees this relationship as likely to continue because the “popularity of Korean popular culture has reconfigured the K-drama industry into a speculative field in which the unpredictable, and thus risky, nature of cultural production is regarded as an opportunity” (p. 50). Unevenness is also a crucial concept to grasp why different promotional media are associated with different places—television dramas for regional cities and K-pop idols for urban districts in Seoul.

In the second part of the book, Oh focuses on how urban places, specifically Gangnam and Myeong-dong, are associated with the established images of K-pop idols to brand the areas and attract K-pop tourists. For example, Gangnam-gu Office designated the 1.08-kilometer stretch of road between Cheongdam-dong and Apgujeong-dong as “K-Star Road” in 2013 as one of the urban branding projects. The project was implemented not only to make the areas attractive, but also to reinforce their global, trendy, and sophisticated image by displaying images of K-pop idols. By making an interesting entanglement, both Gangnam and the K-pop industry have become good partners in maintaining their hegemony.

Though Pop City is a timely and informative book for our understanding of Korean popular culture, some examples in this book might not be adequate to grasp the current field because the environment of the industry is changing quickly. In addition, these changes are related to locality. For example, some of the major K-pop management companies that Oh describes, such as SM Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, have moved out of the Gangnam area since the late 2010s. None of the so-called big four K-pop management companies—SM, JYP, HYBE, and YG—are located in Gangnam at the time of this writing. In addition, many K-pop sites described in this book, such as SMTOWN and K-Star Road, are no longer available or not managed well today.

Nevertheless, Pop City is a meaningful academic achievement in that this book along with a historical overview of modern Korean society scrutinizes how municipalities commodify their spaces to potential tourists, and how this affects both production and consumption of popular culture. One of the elements that makes Pop City invaluable is the author's ethnographic research. Not only did Oh execute the textual and data analysis, she also conducted fieldwork in South Korea and Japan. By interviewing mayors, drama producers, and fan tourists, Oh examines how geographical places are exploited for people's needs, including politicians, and K-pop and K-drama producers, and (re)interpreted by fans. For example, as for K-pop fans, Gangnam is reinterpreted as a place where fans connect with their favorite stars and cultivate a sense solidarity with other fans (p. 153), rather than a place merely pursuing global city status.

Pop City is recommended for scholars of popular culture in Korea (and East Asia more broadly) and those who are interested in cultural geography, urbanity, media, and fandom. This book will be a particularly useful resource for a graduate course on popular culture, focusing on how places are utilized and (re)interpreted by popular culture.