'Oh, Oppa': Gendered Kinship Terms in K-pop and the Linguistic Construction of Korean Global Identity

Seminar/Forum

'Oh, Oppa': Gendered Kinship Terms in K-pop and the Linguistic Construction of Korean Global Identity

This talk examines Korean popular culture from a sociolinguistic perspective, focusing on the usage of three kinship terms: oppa ‘older brother of woman’, nwuna ‘older sister of a man’ and enni ‘elder sister of a woman’. Dr Brown adopts the framework of indexicality to look at how use of oppa in Korean popular culture became a chronotope for a demure female identity, and a softer male image. As for nwuna, he shows how Korean male singers increasingly sexualized the usage of this term, during a time when taboos regarding relationships with older women lifted. Finally, female singers have used enni to index an empowered and liberated female identity, although often with some degree of ambiguity. Dr Brown discusses how the metaphor of kinship contained in these terms meshes with the negotiation of gender identities in K-pop. With the globalization of K-pop and Korean language, these gendered meanings carried in language now become part and parcel of how Korea is imagined (and of how Korea imagines itself) for a global audience.

Presenter

  • Dr Lucien Brown