This article examines five South Korean TV programs, The Age of Global Success, Love in Asia, Asia Hunter, KOICA’s Dream, and Saving Mrs. Go Bongshil, all of which belong to varied and hybrid genres such as news magazine, serialized documentary, reality show, and television drama. Due to its partially elevated status as a middlebrow medium and its ability to combine multiple functions such as entertainment, information, education, and social engineering, South Korean television is a more socially influential popular medium than its Western counterparts. I argue that South Korean popular culture, as represented by these television programs, produces, circulates, and promotes the meanings of respective nation-states (e.g., South Korea, Vietnam, Sri Lanka) and of Asia as a bloc in relation to the region’s ongoing economic and cultural globalization. The following five aspects of South Korea’s relationship to the less developed parts of Asia emerge in the popular culture of the television medium: Southeast Asian and other Asian migrant/immigrant/off-shore labor for South Korea, and the distinct ways in which some are made visible and others invisible; popular cultural imaginings of a pan-Korean regional-global network; popular cultural production of a pan-Asian imaginary; South Korean humanitarianism and its subimperializing dimensions; and dissemination of popular culture within and outside South Korea—that is, the emergence of popular culture as a significant instrument of imaging South Korea as a subempire. I conclude by offering a couple of broad speculations on the changing and varied meanings of subempire for contemporary South Korea.

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