PMP#43: The Korean Wave w/ Suzie Oh

We’re seeing a lot of Korean media in American popular culture nowadays, what with Parasite winning the Oscar for best picture and K-Pop and K-Dramas finding an increasing American cult following. This is not an accident: The Korean government has as an explicit goal the growth of “soft power” through exported cultural products. This Korean Wave (Hallyu) was aimed foremost at Asia but has reached us as well. Suzie Hyun-jung Oh joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to explore the context for this spread and figure out what exactly feels foreign to American audiences about Korean media.

Suzie sees into your soul.

This is our first attempt to get at the zeitgeist of another culture to better understand its media, and the primary focus of our immersion (the part of the wave that’s not aimed at teens) was film: In addition to the work of Bong Joon-ho, we touch on The Handmaiden, A Train to Busan, The Burning, A Taxi Driver, Lucid Dreaming, Among the Gods, and others.

We also talk a little about Korean teen cultural products, family life and religion in Korea, the aesthetic of cuteness, M*A*S*H, and whether Americans will read subtitles.

Some articles and other resources that helped us:

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can hear now by supporting the podcast at

This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network and is curated by

Sponsor: Visit and use promo code pretty to get $35 off healthy, delicious meal deliveries.


  1. Great episode. I’m currently living in Korea and I started listening to your podcast since I arrived.

    In regards to Korean TV versus movies, they are (typically) worlds apart. Knives, blood and cigarettes are all censored on Korean TV, which is clearly not the same for Korean movies. As mentioned, film definitely seems to be a canvas for artists to explore the darker and more controversial aspects of humanity, especially coming off the heavily censored history of film in Korea. I often wonder why its accepted in movies but not on TV?

    Also, there is a fascinating concept in Korea known as “han”. It is a deep sense of sorrow, grief or rage. I think this feeling often weaves its way into Korean cinema (see Oldboy and the Sympathy movies, Mother, Burning, Peppermint Candy and many more) and I’ve often heard it discussed in regards to the separation of families post Korean war.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *