This paper examines nationalism in Korean popular culture in the era of transnationalism by delving into the case of Michelle Wie, a Korean-American and a global sports star. I focus on the mass media’s representation of her both in Korea and the U.S. I also explore the responses of people in both countries, paying special attention to the discussions in cyberspace. Analysis of Korean newspaper articles reveals a strong ethnic nationalist sentiment that reflects the atmosphere of Korean society. In contrast, the U.S. mass media has never raised any issues about her nationality, because, according to the civic nationalist view that is popular in the U.S., there is no room for doubt about it. The hottest topics of discussion about her in several Korean websites are her nationality and Korean mass media’s handling of her. Debates are ongoing between those who stick to the viewpoint of ethnic nationalism and those who maintain a civic nationalist view. Here we witness the encounters of two nationalisms not only between the media in Korea and the U.S., but also among internet users in Korea. The latter may be interpreted as Koreans moving away from the traditional, descent-based, and emotional nationalism in Korean society.
Notions of nationalism, globalization, and transnationalism interplaying with one another in the consumption pattern of Koreans in several kinds of commodities are examined in this paper: hamburgers, rice, espresso coffee, and mobile technological goods. These commodities were introduced to Korean society at different times and in different contexts. By examining how these are received (or rejected) by different groups of Koreans at different junctures in their nation’s history, and how the Korean consumers have characterized the commodities and rationalized and negotiated their consumption choices, we can understand how Koreans’ identities have transformed through the nation’s recent history in the globalizing world. Both globalism and transnationalism are highly relevant concepts in understanding the above issues as some multinational companies and Korean consumers have negotiated and contested the meanings of rational consumer choices and nationalistic sentiments towards particular commodities or brands. It is argued that global identity and global connectedness have become important components of classbased identities among today’s Koreans. This study also shows that the nationalistic attitude of Koreans in consumption, which has been recognized and emphasized in many existing literature, is in fact more complex and flexible. The role of nationalism in consumption in Korean society also seems to have changed significantly in recent years as Koreans’ self-identity in the globalizing world has transformed.