East Asia is becoming a more connected region. The emerging connectedness is driven by informal regionalization processes. In East Asia where historical animosities and territorial problems have disrupted interstate and inter-societal transactions and communications, corporations and people have increased their intraregional interactions. An under-researched area of East Asian regionalization is the nexus between intraregional flows of popular culture and increasing regional interactions. This research project studies the contributions made by the consumption of pop culture products to East Asian regionalization in two dimensions: social and economic. In both dimensions, pop culture products have provided the grounds for more interactions, which have contributed to the emerging regionalization of East Asia. The intraregional flows of Korean pop culture products and their role in increasing social and economic interactions between Korea and other countries in the region are analyzed as part of the East Asian regionalization processes. In the social dimension, pop culture products
brought to light commonalities based on the interactions between societies that have some level of cultural similarities and similar modernization experiences. Furthermore, pop culture products have provided East Asian peoples with opportunities to meet and encounter the ‘others’ in the geographic proximity, and in turn, create new (often better and less conspicuous) images of the ‘others,’ who are in this case Koreans. In the economic dimension, trends in the spread of East Asian pop culture products, including Korean products, point to an emergence of a regional market for East Asian stars and pop culture products.
Key Words: East Asia, regionalization, popular culture, Korean Wave, globalization, cultural proximity.