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The Korean Wave in the city of Málaga, Spain

Julia Rodriguez Castillo
Julia Rodriguez Castillo
Universidad de Málaga

Justification and interest of the topic

These are topics rarely dealt with, by themselves in the panorama of communication on social media in Spain. Therefore, despite being topics discussed outside of our country, it will mean laying the foundations for these phenomena in Spain.


Based on the research of the doctoral student for the thesis: K-pop and Parasocial Interaction in Spain: Fandom on Instagram, which mentions, among other issues, the state of consumption of content related to Hallyu (Korean Wave), the need arises to make an approach to the current state and evolution of said cultural expansion in the city of Malaga specifically. This approach offers an accurate vision that will allow understanding, in a more focused way (local level), the state of the issue in question, to finally be extrapolated and applied, in a more general way (national level), to the thesis that mentioned previously.

Throughout this article, we will try to frame and weave concepts belonging to multiple disciplines such as Parasocial Interaction, Hallyu or Korean wave and the cultural contents that make it up and even virtual ethnography. But above all, it focuses on Hallyu 2.0, a concept developed later and that lays the foundations of the hypothesis raised for this research.

On the other hand, it is worth highlighting the importance of social networks for this research since, in addition to today being the tool for the expansion and globalization of the cultural contents that are discussed in this article, it is the indispensable tool through which starts the methodology applied to this case. To do this, we will focus on Instagram as a virtual field of action because it is one of the three most used social networks in our country. And in K-pop as the main theme for, as we will see later, being the star cultural product of Hallyu 2.0.

1. K-pop

K-pop is a phenomenon that, despite having been expanding around the world for many years, has just started to establish itself solidly in the musical and social scene in Spain a few years ago. It is the popular music (pop music) of South Korea and is part of what is known as Hallyu (한 류) or Korean wave. In this case, when we talk about K-pop we are not only referring to the musical style, but to the entire universe that it generates: songs, video clips, interviews, merchandising, etc. But above all, if there is something that K-pop generates, it is fandom.

As Jiménez (2017) points out, the publications that deal with the subject of K-pop normally approach it through musical, social, political and economic analysis, explanations of its origin and expansion and from the intention of understanding how it is produced and develops the fan phenomenon for the rest of the world. This last point is one of the most important for this research since it deals with the part where virtual ethnography and parasocial interaction come into play.

2. Parasocial Interaction

Parasocial Interaction offers an explanation of the way in which audiences develop their relationship with the media and defines communication between "a subject" (usually famous) and fans as an imitation of closeness and friendship (Horton and Wohl, 1956). Despite the fact that it is a one-way communication, it creates a fictitious effect of a real social relationship. Therefore, the key to making this type of interaction work is to make the audience think that they have a unique and illusory relationship with "the subject."

It is in social networks, and thanks to them, where content consumers have the power to participate and interact with the feed that communicating agents (public figures, politicians, companies, media, etc.) share. But for this to happen it is essential to create an environment in which these consumers feel that their voice has value, or at least that they feel as such. This is achieved through Parasocial Interaction, whose main objective is to wrap the consumer in a fictitious relationship (Castaño, 2015). However, although this feeling of closeness is an illusion, the feelings (including those of response) that it generates are real, as Golbeck (2016) recalls. For this research, we start from the basis of Parasocial Interactions resulting from interactions through social networks, in this case Instagram, with respect to the figures and content related to Hallyu 2.0.

3. Hallyu 2.0, 3.0…

Coined by KOCIS (2011) as Neo-Korean Wave, this concept highlights the evolution of Hallyu due to the entry into the game of social networks, which led to the introduction of new tools for the commercialization and distribution of cultural and cultural content. many K-pop groups knew how to find new ways to reach their audiences, not only as an added element to their music but also with the aim of feeding fandom (a strategy closely linked to PSI). These factors added to the rapid expansion, makes Hallyu evolve to Hallyu 2.0, which is the Hallyu that, in a certain way, we know and consume today.

Hallyu 2.0 is the combination of social networks, their practices and the uses and possibilities they offer, and this new stage has been possible because Korea has advanced its digital technologies. In mapping the growth of Hallyu 2.0, we discuss the role of social media-driven consumption and cultural production flows in Asia and around the world in the context of creative industries (Jin, 2012).

Today, the Korean Wave is a global phenomenon as highlighted by Kelley (2019). The number of dedicated global fans of Hallyu, or the Korean Wave, is estimated to have risen to about 90 million at the end of last year, as shared by government-affiliated foundations (Nam, 2019). As previously mentioned and following the vision of Jin (2012), online games (which we refer to in this research as E-games) and K-pop have become the two most important cultural genres in the Hallyu 2.0 era. However, K-pop stands out as the most distinctive cultural genre in this cultural wave, surpassing K-dramas as the most exportable cultural product Kim (2014). In addition, this revolution invited other cultural products to be part of the game, and what began as the export of K-Dramas and K-Pop expanded to other industries, such as the world of fashion and makeup. With the incorporation of other cultural products made in Korea.

The following are the cultural products that VISIT SEOUL (Visit Seoul.Net, the official Seoul city guide belonging to the Seoul Tourism Organization) encompasses as part of today's Hallyu. These products are considered to generate activities as part of the Hallyu experience in the city of Seoul:
- K-pop
- K-Drama & Tv Show
- K-beauty
- K-food
- E-sport

Although we are talking about Hallyu 2.0, a few years ago the need to review the evolution of Hallyu in this new era was generated to the point of creating the need to review this change in the Hallyu 2.0 paradigm, which authors such as Arirang Issue (2015 ), Kim (2012) mentioned as Hallyu 3.0. Recall that (Arirang Issue, 2015; Kim, 2012) for the first wave of Hallyu the main content was K-dramas and for Hallyu 2.0 K-pop. In the case of this new wave of Hallyu we treat content in a more varied way, including musicals, publications, medicine, fashion, cosmetics and food. Won (2015) mentions both Hallyu 3.0 and Hallyu 4.0. At a current point, Hallyu 4.0 is spoken of as generalized national symbolic capital and closely related to the expansion and protection of products initially considered extrinsic to Hallyu, which we previously included as "K-culture" (Woodier and Park, 2017).

Hallyu 4.0 has the potential to become a "K style" that is closely related to advertising law. The spread of Hallyu was all thanks to the affection of fans around the world, and the target of their affection was nothing less than the image of the Hallyu stars. All the images assimilated to the Hallyu stars represent their identity. The right to use your identity commercially is that of publicity. As fans love and imitate the identity of Hallyu stars, they like every style that Hallyu stars display. They are interested in the lifestyle (food, clothing, and shelter) of the Hallyu stars. Therefore, the success strategy of Hallyu 4.0 depends on how to use and protect the publicity rights of the Hallyu stars (Kim, 2015).


Based on the digital ethnographic observation on the social network Instagram, a search will be carried out for profiles related to the Korean wave in the city of Malaga. Information will be collected on accounts related to any aspect of Hallyu culture, events, associations, fans, etc. Based on this information, it can be assessed and divided by categories to obtain information on the consumption and typology of Hallyu cultural products in the profiles of the Malaga population on Instagram and to be able to make an approach to the Hallyu cultural cybercommunity in Malaga.

To collect the accounts, you will start from the @corea.uma profile and connections will be made between said account and its followers, followed and related. From the profiles found in said search, the procedure will be repeated to expand to more accounts. This observation is carried out on Instagram as it is one of the most relevant social networks in Spain. According to Direct Marketing (2018), this social network will be the main protagonist in 2019 is our country, where the consumption of Instagram Stories, one of the tools that this application offers us, exceeds the global average by 150%. Within the leading social networks in Spain, another point in favor for which this application has been chosen and not another is the average access to content, being 15 times a day on Instagram vs. 1 access to the Facebook day according to Epsilon Trends (2018). In addition, this consulting firm highlights another point to take into account within the consumption habits of Spaniards with respect to this social network, is the average age, which is consolidated between 18-34 years.


The universe of the Hallyu community in Malaga, obtained from this first approach through virtual ethnographic observation, is made up of a total of 184 profiles that we have divided into the following five categories according to their function: 1. Professionals accounts: includes accounts related to culture in general, the university or other types of Korean studies, associations and youtubers or bloggers. 2. Accounts of fans or individuals. 3. Dance accounts: These are accounts in which K-pop is discussed but focused on dance directly. Be it the profiles of the groups, members or organizations. 4. EAO (Estudios de Asia Oriental) accounts: of students of the East Asian Studies career at the University of Malaga. 5. Other cultural products.

As we can see, from the graph created through the 184 profiles collected, the most important category within this universe is that of the K-pop community, related to dance. Followed by Fans / Individuals and East Asian Studies students and, to a lesser extent, professional accounts. Finally and in a not very representative way, only one percent, we found other cultural products, of which only information about K-beauty and K-food has been found.

Of all the categories as a whole, it should be noted that almost 65% of the accounts are concerned with transmedia. That is, within the biographies of a total of 118 profiles we find links to other applications, websites, platforms, Instagram accounts or hashtags, with professional accounts (with 100%) and dance accounts (with 78%) being the more transmedia.

On the other hand, within the dance community, it should be noted that in the transmedia accounts of this group, 44% of the links we found belong to anonymous participation platforms such as Tellonym (the most used) and Sarahah. In addition, these types of platforms are present, although to a lesser extent, in the categories of Fans / Individuals and EAO in which Mycrush and Coriouscat also appear as alternatives to those already mentioned.

The difficulties presented when collecting this information are related to the definition of the profiles since in many cases, the lack of information in the biographies of the analyzed accounts does not allow us to obtain sufficient data to determine more specific types of profiles based on in categories such as age, origin or tastes for example. It is due to this lack of information in the profiles that some accounts may have gone unnoticed by the sample.


As far as the data allow, a certain similarity has been observed with the study by Hubinette (2012) who analyzed the Korean Wave in Sweden, highlighting Kpop as the most relevant phenomenon in the country, which is focusing on adolescent women up to forty years of age . In addition to the notes from Epsilon Trends (2018) which mention millennials (18-34 years old) as the most active rank on Instagram, pointing out that users under 40 have immigrated from Facebook.

One of the most notable conclusions observed in this research is that transmediality is accompanied by the need to promote oneself and the need to create communities and group activities, which is why they are more present in professional and dance accounts, followed by Fans / Individuals and EAO.

As a final conclusion, the need to approach the objectives from a perspective that involves more the own vision of the sample is mentioned, therefore, for future research, the implementation of semi-structured interviews that help to penetrate more into the subject in question is proposed. . These interviews will focus on making a cultural approach to determine and expand knowledge about the rules, values and behaviors of the community that we have determined throughout this investigation. In addition, the interviews will be oriented to cover information related to the parasocial experience based on the work of Schramm, and Hartmann, T. (2008).

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