The Semiotics of Soft Power: An Examination of the South Korean Entertainment Industry (68467)

Session Information: Society & Culture/Urban Studies
Session Chair: Yu-Li Wang

Saturday, 27 May 2023 16:00
Session: Session 4
Room: Room 704
Presentation Type:Oral Presentation

This research aimed to interrogate, by means of semiotic analysis, how South Korea's soft power is operationalised through entertainment. To this end, the two most commercially successful South Korean entertainment products to date were analysed, namely, Netflix’ “Squid Game” and BTS’ hit single “Butter”. The aesthetic analysis of the first case study revealed intertextual symbolic references to famous artworks which served to augment the emotional provocation of the Squid Game narrative. For the second case study, the findings exposed a set of musical meaning units arranged in a patchwork of familiar and futuristic elements to achieve a song that existed on the boundary between old and new. The linguistic analysis of the song’s lyrics found a deceptively innocuous surface level meaning that bore implications for authority, intimacy, and commercial success. Whether through means of visual metaphor, embedded auditory associations or linguistic subtext, the collective findings of the analyses exhibited a desire to conjure a form of positive arousal in the spectator. In the synthesis section, this process is likened to that of branding. Through an exploration of branding, the entertainment products can be understood as cogs in a larger operation aiming to create positive associations to Korea as a country and a concept. These positive associations are decoded and distilled into a set of affective semiotic practices through which directions for future research are suggested.

Enya Trenholm-Jensen, University of Aarhus, Denmark

About the Presenter(s)
Enya Trenholm Jensen is a cultural, commercial, and cognitive semiotician. Her research covers topics from ASMR online communities to crypto imaginaries and the semiotics of money. Her current focus is the use of signification systems in soft power.

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00