Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Gender equality Reduced inequalities Partnerships for the goals

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course the student: knows the general framework and contemporary history of media and communication in Korea and East Asia; is able to analyse the role played by media in contemporary East Asian culture and society; is able to apply this knowledge to the analysis of the key issues regarding the relationship between media and society; acquires specific knowledge about cultural production and its effects at the political, social and economic level in East Asia, with specific reference to the Korean context.

Course contents

The course Media, Culture and Society in Korea and East Asia aims at introducing, analyzing and understanding the processes related to contemporary cultural production – with particular reference to pop culture – and the issues of the use of media and their influence on political and social processes in the context of Korea and East Asia. Recently, the creative and cultural industries of several East Asian countries have witnessed an extremely rapid development and a constant growth of the domestic consumption of these products. At the same time, cultural products have begun to go beyond the borders of individual countries, creating networks of dissemination and sharing within East Asia and in some cases achieving a formidable global success. Emblematic in this sense is the case of Korea and the enormous diffusion that some of the cultural products of this country – music, cinema, TV shows, videogames and much more – have reached in recent years. Understanding the reasons behind these highly successful processes and the dynamic of the markets and industries of East Asia has therefore become essential to fully address the evolution of cultural production and creative industries at the global level. For this reason, the course aims at providing a general overview of the historical development of the main countries of the region and of their cultural production and how it has been influenced – and it has influenced – political and social processes. In addition, the course focuses specifically on different forms of cultural production, including television, film, music, social media, animation, video games, which are particularly relevant both in the Korean and East Asian landscape, but also at the global level. The cultural context of reference will be that of East Asia, with particular reference to the Korean peninsula, Japan and the Chinese sphere, including the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. In this context, specific attention will be given to the processes of cultural production of contemporary Korea, as an example of the success and diffusion that these products have achieved in recent years, both at a regional and global level.

The course is based on the constant and active participation of students. This participation, which does not end with attending in the classroom, constitutes a fundamental part of the final evaluation.

The first part of the course consists of a series of introductory lectures, which cover the first two weeks, on the contemporary history of the Korean peninsula and East Asia, with specific attention to the evolution of political, economic and socio-cultural systems in the main countries of the area. This part is fundamental to be able to insert the processes of cultural production of contemporary East Asia within the specific context in which they have developed and, at the same time, underline the role of the multiple influences coming from outside. This solid base of knowledge and skills will give us the opportunity to analyze specific cultural, media and communication processes and their interactions with the political and social sphere.

The second part focuses on cultural production and the role of the media in Korea and East Asia, both through a general overview of the main concepts and intraregional phenomena related to these issues, and with the analysis of issues of particular relevance, such as:

  • Creative and cultural industries in East Asia;
  • The evolution and spread of pop culture in the region;
  • The phenomenon of the ‘Korean Wave’ (Hallyu) and its global success;
  • Cinema and film production in Korea and East Asia
  • TV and television series in Korea and East Asia;
  • Pop music in East Asia and the K-pop phenomenon;
  • Cultural production in motion: comics and webtoons, video games and e-sports.

For each specific issue there will an introductory lecture followed by a collective discussion in the classroom based on the readings and materials assigned; for this reason it is absolutely essential to do all the readings before coming to class.


The list with all the required readings will be provided at the beginning of the course and all the readings will be made available in electronic format.

The historical-political framework of reference will be provided in the first lectures of the course. However, for a general overview of the main developments of contemporary East Asia, we recommend reading one – or more – of these books:

  • Antonio Fiori, Marco Milani, Andrea Passeri (2022). Asia. Storia, Istituzioni e Relazioni Internazionali. (Firenze: Le Monnier Università). Parte prima, capitoli: 1, 2 e 5; parte seconda, capitoli: 1, 2, 5 e 6; Parte terza, capitoli: 1, 4 e 6; parte quarta, capitoli: 1, 3, 4 e 6; parte quinta, capitoli: 1, 2, 5 e 6.
  • Alice Lyman Miller and Richard Wich (2011). Becoming Asia: Change and Continuity in Asian International Relations Since World War II. (Stanford: Stanford University Press).

The recommended readings are not mandatory, but they represent an important resource to familiarize with the history, society and cultural landscape of Korea and East Asia.

Teaching methods

The course will be a mix of lectures, class discussions, presentations, short videos and other audio-visual materials. The active participation of students is a key component of the course and will be part of the final evaluation.

Assessment methods

Considering the importance of active class participation attendance is strongly recommended.



Class participation + assignment + discussion

In addition to active class participation during the course, attending students will present an assignment on a topic, key concept or issue raised during the course, or related to the themes of the course (in this case it should be cleared with the professor). The assignment will be a short research paper (3500 words). More details about the assignment will be given during the first lecture and will be the object of specific sessions during the course.

The assignment will be discussed together with questions about the topics and issues of the course.



Oral exam

For non-attending students the assessment will take place through oral exam on the topic of all the required readings from the reading list, plus one of the books on contemporary Korean and East Asian history (Antonio Fiori, Marco Milani, Andrea Passeri. L’Asia. Storia, Istituzioni e Relazioni Internazionali, only the chapters indicated; or Alice Lyman Miller e Richard Wich Becoming Asia: Change and Continuity in Asian International Relations Since World War II) and the book Koichi Iwabuchi, Eva Tsai e Chris Berry (2017). Routledge Handbook of East Asian Popular Culture. Abingdon: Routledge.


The ability to present key issues and topics regarding East Asian media and cultural production using a specific language, showing critical awareness and connecting them to the political, social and cultural contexts will result in an excellent evaluation. A purely notional knowledge with little analysis and a correct but not specific language will result in a fair evaluation. An incomplete knowledge or inappropriate language will result in a pass evaluation. Important gaps in key themes and issues, inappropriate language and inability to use key concepts and approaches will result in a negative evaluation.

Teaching tools

Specific readings on the covered topics, slides, images and short videos, audio-visual materials.

Office hours

See the website of Marco Milani