Migrants Meet Reality Shows

The Class Representation of Non-Koreans in Reality Shows in Korea

Authored by: Hun-Yul Lee

The Routledge Companion to Media and Class

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138493612
eBook ISBN: 9781351027342
Adobe ISBN:


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A recent increase in migration to Korea provides a case to explore the uneasiness Korean mainstream media have had with class issues. First, in the 1990s, when the majority of the migrants to Korea were workers with lower economic status, media largely ignored their presence. Later, migrants were mostly represented in media stories about foreign brides who had moved to Korea for a better life. This tendency to approach migration through these limited stereotypical representations obscured the more recent arrival of young, educated, and more-westernized migrants until very recently, when representations of these upwardly mobile migrants seem to have burst onto Korean television’s prime time in record numbers. As a result of this history, the tensions regarding class differences among migrant workers are buried, only to appear occasionally in news with mostly negative tones. This chapter deals with these changing relationships among migrants, media, and their representations. Tracing the estranged relationship between media and class through case studies of migrant representation in Korean media, the chapter shows how the media now scramble to re-frame class tensions in socially acceptable ways.

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