Transnational Sport: Gender, Media, and Global Korea

Transnational Sport: Gender, Media, and Global Korea

by Rachael Miyung Joo

Paperback(New Edition)

View All Available Formats & Editions
Usually ships within 1 week
10 New & Used Starting at $3.50


Based on ethnographic research in Seoul and Los Angeles, Transnational Sport tells how sports shape experiences of global Koreanness, and how those experiences are affected by national cultures. Rachael Miyung Joo focuses on superstar Korean athletes and sporting events produced for transnational media consumption. She explains how Korean athletes who achieve success on the world stage represent a powerful, globalized Korea for Koreans within the country and those in the diaspora. Celebrity Korean women athletes are highly visible in the Ladies Professional Golf Association. In the media, these young golfers are represented as daughters to be protected within the patriarchal Korean family and as hypersexualized Asian women with commercial appeal. Meanwhile, the hard-muscled bodies of male athletes, such as Korean baseball and soccer players, symbolize Korean masculine dominance in the global capitalist arena. Turning from particular athletes to a mega-event, Joo discusses the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, a watershed moment in recent Korean history. New ideas of global Koreanness coalesced around this momentous event. Women and youth assumed newly prominent roles in Korean culture, and, Joo suggests, new models of public culture emerged as thousands of individuals were joined by a shared purpose.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822348566
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 02/06/2012
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Rachael Miyung Joo is Assistant Professor of American Studies at Middlebury College.

Read an Excerpt

Transnational Sport



Copyright © 2012 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-4856-6

Chapter One


Within this global era, state rhetorics of nationalism continue to inform understandings of sport, and the nation remains a central way of framing consumer practices of sport. A consideration of historical connections between media sport and nations helps explain the contradictions and connections between various narratives of nationalism that appear in Korean/ American understandings of transnational media sport. Rather than offering an exhaustive history of the role of sport in both communities, I attempt to trace a "genealogy" of sport and national ideology in two national contexts —South Korea and the United States. Popular forms of sport have been characterized in and produced through mass media within changing political, economic, and social contexts. They have been shaped by the intersections and disjunctures between the two nation-states. The visibility of South Korean athletes performing in the United States and beyond can be understood better when it is tracked across imbricated histories of national discourses in media and sport.

In offering several historical narratives, beginning in this chapter with a focus on South Korea, my work offers a corrective to a common assumption in European and American studies of mainstream media sport that foreground a standard response to commercial sport that privileges a Euro-American male subject. It also challenges the assumption that non-Western subjects have an easily predictable and simple nationalist reaction to sport. This study of sport can be situated within literature on cultural globalization that critiques staid ideas of center-periphery developmental models of globalization that reproduce the priority of the West and the derivative or dependent nature of the Rest, not only in the analysis itself but also in empirical content (see Condry 2006; Iwabuchi 2002). There are important nation-specific considerations in understanding the significance of global media sport. Furthermore, universalizing generalizations about sport do not convey the complexity of meaning-making around sport. Media sport becomes meaningful in different ways to subjects around the world, based on specific histories of engagement with sport, and these histories are not erased or transcended by the increasing globalization of media sport.

In this chapter, it is not my interest to investigate the systems of sporting competition and media distribution that are indeed becoming increasingly standardized and commodified within the global commercial markets of media sport. Although popular sports and sport programming are being standardized, especially in the context of global media consolidation, there are still important place-specific responses to the narratives of global media sport. Rather than investigate the processes of homogenization in global sporting markets, this chapter discusses the meanings of nation and transnation that are conveyed through representations of sport in Korea at significant historical junctures throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries. This offers a framework for understanding the contemporary connectivities forged among corporate, national, institutional, and subjective interests in transnational media sport and how the discourses of nationalism inform the ideological force and intensities that enable these connectivities. The following discussion does not follow the development of an individual sport but instead discusses media sport as a genre constructed through a technological assemblage of people, television, Internet, daily sports papers, radio, images, consumer products, and advertisements.

Historical contingencies underpin the growth of transnational media sport in South Korean and Korean American communities. The recent explosion of interest in media sport in contemporary Korean communities in Seoul and Los Angeles can be tracked to changes in the public and consumer cultures in Korean communities in South Korea and the United States. The following pages offer partial contexts to explain the significance of media sport in South Korean and Korean/American migrant communities. The historical genealogies of nation and media sport I present in the first two chapters are largely distinct and cannot be compared in a parallel way; they offer a sense of the imbricated terrain through which meanings of sport are encoded. The association I examine in this chapter—between sport and modern nationalist development in South Korea—offers an important historical basis for the claims about connections between South Korean nationalism and sport that are articulated throughout the book. In a century that was marked by nationalist media spectacles, an important connection exists between the growth of commercial mass media, the rise of state nationalism, and the popular emergence of media sport. These connections between state nationalist discourses and media sport continue in an era of segyehwa (globalization).

By detailing the development of media sport in South Korea from the introduction of modern sport to the current state of global sport, this chapter traces the historical connections among mass media productions, sport, and their attachments to developmental nationalist narratives. Mass media, rather than direct physical participation, are the primary means by which representations of sport have been apprehended and consumed by most Korean subjects. In South Korea, sport became a major presence in everyday modern life due to the circulation of athletes, games, and stories in mass media formats such as radio, newspapers, and television.

Developmental Nationalism and Media Sport in South Korea

In August of 2002, Professor Chang Han-song, a professor of political science and a member of the Presidential Policy Planning Commission, framed the recent success of the Korean national football team in the 2002 World Cup within a nationalist narrative of South Korean history. In our interview, Professor Chang kindly dictated his interpretation of the role of sport in Korean society, although he fully admitted that he was not an expert on this subject. Nevertheless, he told me he was happy to speak about his views on the World Cup and other affiliated topics. We proceeded from his office to the basement of his university's social science building in order to get some chap'an'gi (vending machine) coffee. Professor Chang pulled the small paper cups of instant coffee from the vending machine, and we sat down at an empty folding table. With images of the World Cup fresh in his memory, he discussed three influences the World Cup had on South Korean society:

First, the World Cup instilled national pride and personal pride. For a long time, Korea has been oppressed and directed by more powerful countries. In our economic and military affairs, we have been pressured by outside forces. As a result of this World Cup, we gained the confidence to lead ourselves. Second, we gained a new understanding of foreigners. It wasn't until the latter half of the nineteenth century that we came into contact with the West. Until then, Westerners were treated with much hatred and suspicion. As we modernized, we took up Western rational thought and science. The great success of the World Cup was the result of Western rationality and science combining with the Korean people's inherent strength and sense of unity. Finally, the football players created new ways to succeed by putting into practice scientifically proven ideas in creative ways. A combination of the Korean people's dynamic strength and intelligence worked to promote a new way of doing things and thereby made a stronger team.

He later reminded me of Korea's development from one of the poorest countries in the world (at the time of liberation from Japanese rule in 1945) to one of the wealthiest industrialized nations. In his opinion, the success of the football team was a result of the unique properties of Koreans as a people and their own version of modernization—a process that combined the Korean national essence with Western rationality and science. In discussing sport, Professor Chang drew on nationalist discourses of chuch'e (self-reliance) that promoted a uniquely Korean form of modernization. His comments also reflected state globalization policies that extend the goals of nationalist modernization by promoting a rhetoric of segyehwa (S. Kim 2000a). In Professor Chang's opinion, the performance of the national team proved Korea's potential for success by combining Korean and Western elements in a way that put Korea on top.

This classic nationalist narrative of South Korean history has little to do with sport, yet it still offers important insights into notions of Koreanness that were promoted through the World Cup. I'm sure that Professor Chang, if pressed, could relay a far more accurate history of modernization and sport. Clearly, this was not his goal. His explanation offered a kind of nationalist shorthand that evoked mythologies of the shared essence and strength of the Korean people. I mention Professor Chang's story because it was a common nationalist explanation for Korean sporting success in the World Cup and other transnational contexts. It also evoked historical narratives of Korean developmental nationalism to offer reasons for South Korea's World Cup success and to explain the significance of the moment to Koreans throughout the world (see Moon 2005; Shin 2006).

As a way to get a sense of the background to these discourses of modern nationalism and sport, the following section briefly details the history of modern sport in South Korea and demonstrates how sport functions as a vehicle for the articulation of nationalisms and transnationalisms. The trajectory of modern sport history in South Korean sport scholarship tends to follow major shifts in political regimes, and it is divided into five categories: the Introductory Era (1890s–1910), during which modern sport was introduced by Western missionaries; the Colonial Era (1910–1945) of Japanese rule in the Korean peninsula; Nationalist Modernization (1945–1979), which lasted from Liberation until the end of Park Chung Hee's regime as president; the P'al-yuk p'al-p'al period (1980–1988), which characterized the expansion of the role of sport in national public culture in preparation for the 1988 Summer Olympics; and the Era of Liberalization (1989–present), which has been marked by privatization and commercial media influence in sport (H. Lee 2003). This narrative presumes the powerful role of the state in shaping particular kinds of experiences of sport, and it also connects changes in institutionalized sport to nation-building projects throughout the twentieth century. This story not only demonstrates how sporting narratives operate to naturalize teleologies of national development and progress, it also highlights the centrality of media sport in representing aspirations for national strength and global recognition.

The Emergence of Modern Sport and Colonial Expressions of Nation

Representatives of foreign states introduced various forms of modern sport in the latter half of the nineteenth century when Korea was first beginning to actively engage in modern international political and economic relations. Even though they were not formally representing state interests, U.S. and British missionaries set up educational institutions in the mid-1880s, which became the initial sites for the practice of modern sport (Hwa 2000; H. Lee 1985; 2003; T. Yun 1992). Sport constituted an important part of the missionaries' attempts to inculcate what they understood as "Christian manliness" through notions of bodily discipline, gentlemanliness, sportsmanship, and standardized rules (Mangan and Ha 2001). Foreign missionaries also organized the first modern-style sporting tournaments in Seoul, and these tournaments functioned as a newly modern form of public gathering. Soon after the introduction of modern sport by foreigners, Korean sporting associations organized public sporting events for domestic competitions. Modern sport and Western education were not accepted wholeheartedly by Koreans; rather, they were sharply contested by people who perceived the encroachment of these new cultural practices as a form of cultural imperialism and a threat to "traditional" Korean ways of life (see Hwa 2000; Mangan and Ha 2001).

During the colonial era, when Korea was under Japanese rule, sport became popularized as a form of mass-mediated entertainment, and it operated to produce new understandings of the body and modern subjectivity. In his important text, Soul e ttansu hol ul hohara (Permit Dance Halls in Seoul) (1999), Kim Chin-song discusses the production of the modern subject in Korea through popular consumer culture. Kim tracks the changing understandings of the body in modern colonial society and associates these changing conceptions with the capitalist consumption of visual images, texts, and commodities. Participation in sport inculcated new forms of spectatorship and consumption and novel modes of experiencing pleasure for both men and women. Kim argues that sport offered new understandings of the body's function in the moral order of modern colonial society as a disciplined body, a commercial body, and a body for the expression of pleasurable pursuits (see James 1983). Modern sport shaped a unique phenomenology of subjective experience, and it offered a new physical understanding of what it meant to be a national subject.

Productions of sport during the colonial era functioned as popular news items, which were conveyed through newspaper and radio. In the 1920s, domestic sporting events taking place in Korea were covered in two major Korean newspapers, the Dong-A Ilbo and the Choson Ilbo. These publications also played an active role in sponsoring Korean sporting tournaments. Beginning in 1928 and continuing into the 1930s, radio broadcasts of sporting events such as baseball, boxing, and basketball were among the most popular programs on the colonial Kyongsong Broadcast Corporation (KBC) (Ch'oe and Ch'oe 1998).

Kim points out that sport operated as a form of cultural education that produced a modern capitalist sensibility in Korean subjects. In addition, media sport helped shape a new kind of national subjectivity in the colonial era. It can be assumed that sporting programs passed censorship by the colonial government, but some scholars have argued that mass media productions of sport were powerful forces in producing a modern idea of nation among Korean subjects (H. Han 2002; T. Yun 1992). According to this argument, sport produced a sense of an "imagined community" for Koreans who competed in games, attended sporting tournaments, talked about the competitions, read newspapers for sport-related articles, and tuned in to the radio to root for the Korean team (see Anderson 1991). Sport also shaped affective terrains for the production of feelings of nationalism. The emotional sentiments of nation expressed within this "nonpolitical" context might have been considered, at some points during this period, relatively innocuous by colonial authorities and other Japanese subjects living in Korea.

As far as colonial policies were concerned, physical education was incorporated into the educational and military curriculum for a limited number of colonial subjects (H. Lee 2003). In 1931, the cultural policy of naissen ittai (Japan and Korea as One) resulted in the inclusion of sport in education programs that emphasized incorporation and assimilation. Sport became a means to integrate Korean men into the Japanese empire, especially as military subjects. Korean subjects who excelled in elite sports were recruited to participate as part of the Japanese national team in international tournaments. In spite of these dimensions of incorporation, sporting events and practices also offered spaces of opportunity for the expression of various responses to colonial policies.


Excerpted from Transnational Sport by RACHAEL MIYUNG JOO Copyright © 2012 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Note on Transliteration xiii

Introduction: Manufacturing Koreanness through Transnational Sport 1

Part I. Situating Transnational Media Sport

1. To Be a Global Player: Sport and Korean Developmental Nationalisms 35

2. A Leveraged Playing Field: U.S. Multiculturalism and Korean Athletes 65

Part II. Reading Masculinities and Femininities through Transnational Athletes

3. Playing Hard Ball: The Athletic Body and Korean/American Masculinities 101

4. Traveling Ladies: Neoliberalism and the Female Athlete 131

Part III. The Transnational Publics of the World Cup

5. Nation Love: The Feminized Publics of the Korean World Cup 163

6. Home Field Advantage: Nation, Race, and Transnational Media Sport in Los Angeles's Koreatown 194

7. Generations Connect: Discourses of Generation and the Emergence of Transnational Youth Cultures 222

Conclusion: The Political Potentiality of Sport 250

Notes 267

References 303

Index 323

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews