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  • P-ISSN1229-0076
  • E-ISSN2773-9351

Media Cultural Politics and the Politics of Sympathy—Queen Seondeok: Dramatized Conspiracy Theory as “Power-Narrative”

The Review of Korean Studies, (P)1229-0076; (E)2773-9351
2016, v.19 no.1, pp.111-137
최기숙 (연세대학교)
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In this paper I reveal the mutual interaction between drama, history, and reality, and analyze the cultural operating principle of “the political.” I achieve this by analyzing the narrative of, and viewer reactions to, the television drama Queen Seondeok, which serves as a prominent example of popular K-drama culture in 21st century Korea. First, I explain that conspiracy theory forms the core of the Queen Seondeok narrative arc, showing how it creates a shared bond of sympathy both with and among the audience in the context of popular disillusionment and resistance to “the political.” Viewing the drama with a critical eye focused on the conspiracies fabricated by the political persons that appear in the show, viewers come to support and sympathize with the conspiracy in the narrative, internalizing it as a lens through which to assess the world. In the process, a paradoxical interaction is revealed. To prove this, I analyze the paradoxical approach adopted by the viewers of the drama: by sympathizing with the narrative the audience recognizes “the political” as a “natural” lens. This stems from the way the drama satirizes and “reenacts” modern and contemporary Korean political history. Finally, I unveil specific mechanisms employed by the characters in Queen Seondeok to disguise their emotions and to win the competitive power game. All these elements together show both the operating principles of cultural politics in the medium of TV drama, and the empowerment inherent in the act of watching.

TV drama Queen Seondeok conspiracy theory historical drama politics media



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The Review of Korean Studies