Human Traffic: The Fashionably and Unfashionably Marginalized in the Korean Cultural Context

Author: Dustin Hellberg & Yun Ha Kim, Yonsei University, South Korea
Published: February 28, 2017

Citation: Hellberg, D., & Kim, Y. H. (2017). Human Traffic: The Fashionably and Unfashionably Marginalized in the Korean Cultural Context. IAFOR Journal of Cultural Studies, 2(1).


This article will propose the novel terms "fashionably marginalized" and "unfashionably marginalized" to outline particular limits of description in cultural studies (broadly defined) of topics that are more easily and less easily discussed through the predominant vocabulary of the Humanities. This is not an attack on the aims of cultural studies and theorists. Instead, it will help to identify marginalized groups whose cause and advocacy require more consilient, interdisciplinary involvement to intersect public policy, theoretical discourse and media coverage in order to assist or give voice to groups of people who themselves may not have the means or wherewithal to address their own plight in the public sphere. We will outline the case of Korean elderly recycling collectors and how the academy has largely ignored them, despite the fact that they comprise a significant percentage of the Korean population. Then we will contrast them with two other marginalized groups, Korean shamans and the Korean LGBT community, groups which the academy has paid much more attention to, despite being smaller in demographics. We will use these contrasting groups as unfashionably and fashionably marginalized examples. We hope to demonstrate how the adoption of cultural theory’s vocabulary in the Korean academy illustrates areas where cultural theory may fall short of its proposed goals as a symptom of the broader tendency in the Humanities.


marginalization, Korea, cultural theory, policy, recycling