In recent years, the popularity of Hallyu, the Korean Wave, has been on the rise in Western countries. Hallyu is a phenomenon that is sparked by Korean popular culture. It has been spreading to other countries than South Korea since the 1990s, mainly in the rest of Asia at first, but now also in Western countries, especially after Korean content began to be distributed on social media. Hallyu is, to a large extent, stimulated by the South Korean government as the government provided Hallyu-related industries like media, tourism, and technology with favorable circumstances for them to flourish, and the government did that through policymaking. In Hallyu there have been controversies regarding sexual misconduct with, and high pressure on, idols resulting in suicides. It has been argued that these controversies are the result of Confucian ideology that is present in Korean society. It has also been argued that the Korean government has been implementing policies regarding Hallyu too nonchalantly, commodifying Korean culture, and that the government has not been focusing on what sociocultural effects this behavior can have, especially considering the soft power the Korean government could have because of Hallyu and the Confucian ideology that could be mediated via Hallyu. Therefore, this thesis studies the tourist experience of Western Hallyu fans, also mentioned as Koreaboos, not in a derogatory sense, to find out what their experiences reveal about Korean soft power and brand nationalism. This thesis studies Koreaboos’ experiences because it fills the gap between media, tourism, fan and political studies since there has not been enough focus in academia on Hallyu as a meaning-making device, and fans comparing their imaginations about Korea before and after traveling to Korea from the perspective of soft power. To study the experiences of Koreaboos, two main groups of participants were interviewed. Namely, Koreaboos that had an educational background regarding Korea and Koreaboos that did not. They were asked to reflect on their experiences becoming a fan first and then becoming a tourist in Korea. The results showed that the Korean government proved to have soft power through commercialism of fan products in the West, where it was able to mediate Confucian ideals through Hallyu. In Korea, the exertion of soft power was continued by adopting the fans in a patriarchal social system. However, fans proved to have soft power as well, namely in their identity as a prosumer in the West and as a cosmopolitan in Korea. The results suggest the methods used in this thesis are important for showing that both the Korean government and Koreaboos have soft power, and that this is due to a shift of global power relations, which in turn is a result of globalization and digitalization.

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Martini, A.
Place, Culture and Tourism
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Sinuraya, Guntar. (2021, July 7). The Koreaboo as a media tourist: Soft power of the Korean government and Western Hallyu fans compared as a result of globalization and digitalization. Place, Culture and Tourism. Retrieved from