Theories of regional formation need to be rigorously examined in relation to East Asian popular culture that has been in circulation under the successive “waves” of Japanese and Korean TV dramas from the 1990s onward. Most overviews of the phenomenon have concentrated on the impact on the region of Japanese, then Korean, TV products as they spread southward to the three Chinese communities of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mainland China. In the voluminous studies devoted to the subject, most conspicuously represented by those of Iwabuchi Koichi, two outstanding points of emphasis are noteworthy. First, the majority of evidence is drawn from the so-called “trendy” love dramas, like Tokyo Love Story (1991), Long Vacation (1996), Love Generation (1996) and Beautiful Life (2000) from Japan as well as Autumn Tale (2000) and Winter Sonata (2002) from Korea. Many of them were so successful that they altered TV drama production in the receptor communities. Second, the preponderant concern in these studies is with the reasons for the spectacular successes achieved by these media products, and views are divided between those who champion the “cultural proximity” thesis, stressing the close links between the three East Asian traditions, and those who uphold the “quest for modernity” thesis, viewing the upbeat, fashionable lifestyles depicted in the dramas as the root appeal for a predominantly young, middle-class and Westernized audience living in the cities. Interestingly, in both camps, one sees illuminating echoes of issues and terms repeatedly theorized and problematized in recent adaptation studies, like manipulation, appropriation, rewriting, localization strategies, and the opposition between regionalization and globalization as explanatory modes for translation activity.
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