Understanding the Potential for a Hallyu “Backlash” in Southeast Asia: A Case Study of Consumers in Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines
Korean cultural products (known as Hallyu) are now the dominant incarnation of East Asian culture throughout Southeast Asia and have introduced consumers to Korean industry, cosmetics, and culture. Recent work has concentrated heavily upon this region and the new dynamics Southeast Asian countries can offer to the study of inter-Asian cultural links, particularly during the political amalgamation of the ASEAN economic community. Yet in the more developed Southeast Asian nations of Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines, there is some evidence of a rejection of and animosity towards Hallyu products from consumers who are beginning to question and disapprove of the high number of Korean products in their countries. Through interviews with over 70 consumers dissatisfied with Hallyu across these three nations, this project identifies three main areas under which this potential for a Hallyu “backlash” occurs: perceptions of colonial-esque attitudes and cultural imperialism from Korea; the movement of Hallyu from an innovative new “high culture” to a static and out-of-date “low culture”; and the increasing availability of new and different international products that threaten to usurp Hallyu. Such evidence represents a potential change in East and Southeast Asian relations, as well as the long term difficulties inherent in using Hallyu as a vehicle to maintain Korean influence.