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K-Pop Phenomenon - Why the Korean boy band BTS is conquering the world

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The Korean boy band BTS made the final breakthrough in the western pop world this year: Time Magazine awarded the band the title “Entertainer of the Year”. What is behind the phenomenon of the seven young men from South Korea?

“With BTS, K-Pop, Korean Pop, has definitely arrived in the mainstream,” says Sung Un Gang, a Korean scholar and cultural scientist. "Every time the band does something or new songs come out, they are almost naturally invited to US TV shows."

Over 1 billion views on Youtube

The success of BTS is global. Some of their music videos have been viewed more than 1.1 billion times and their online community is considered one of the most active in the world. Journalist Lisa-Sophie Scheurell runs the first K-Pop and BTS podcast in German-speaking countries. For them, this global fan base is an important factor in the success of the boy group:

“BTS fandom is extremely diverse. There are all genders in our fandom, there are all sexualities or sexual preferences, all ages, and all ethnicities. BTS fans cannot be lumped together. "

A mouthpiece for the youth in South Korea

The second success factor: BTS want to be a mouthpiece for the youth in South Korea. Again and again they address the problems of young people in their texts, most of which they write themselves.

“Pressure to perform is a big topic that comes up again and again in Korea - a topic that BTS is very critical of. They criticize the reduction of young people to learning machines that have to carry out their parents' wishes, ”explains Scheurell. With that they would say what the youth in Korea think. A topic that also seems to resonate outside of South Korea.

Third success factor: BTS appear approachable and authentic. There are countless Youtube videos that show their normal everyday life. These are viewed millions of times by fans.

Hard training even in youth

Of course, BTS 'success is not accidental. K-pop bands are put together through castings. Many are trained specifically for years as children.

“Some of the young people move to Seoul at the age of 13 or 14 to apply,” says journalist Lisa-Sophie Scheurell. In K-Pop camps and schools, these young people are trained to later become so-called “Idols”, K-Pop stars. The youngest member of BTS started training at the age of 13, he doesn't know anything else.

The other side of the coin: Even at a young age, the band members are bound to the labels with strict contracts, which then also earn big money. The young band members often have to pay off high debts, and there is often talk of exploitation.

Global success - despite Korean texts

BTS and other K-pop groups sing in Korean, which doesn't detract from their global success. On the contrary, says cultural scientist Sung Un Gang: “I very often hear from students or young adults who are learning Korean because of BTS or K-Pop. Sure, it's an effort, but obviously it's something that a fan likes to do. "

In addition to their success as a pop group, BTS are influential cultural ambassadors for South Korea and its language. An achievement that South Korean President Moon Jae-in honored with the country's highest medal for cultural merit in 2018.

A global fan base, a nerve for the pressing problems of young people, authenticity and hard training: that's what defines BTS. Incidentally, the three letters stand for “Bangtan Sonyeondan”, which translates as “bulletproof boy scouts”.

Radio SRF 2 Kultur, Kultur Aktuell, 21.12.2020, 5.10 p.m.; feha / haet

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  • Comment from Sancho Brochella (why?)
    For me there are two types of "problem debunking texts" in music: 1. The "if my star perceives me and understands my problems in his lyrics, then I can endure the situation better and longer" ... it changes socially nothing, the music works as a medicine. And 2. the revolutionary texts, which call for civil disobedience, refusal, etc. & can actually cause action in boys. What the BTS look like I think they are of the variety ...
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
  • Comment from Shane O'Neill (Diddleydoo)
    It should not be ignored that you also have a message in your music. Self-love, based on tenable values. It is no coincidence that your album is called the same as a book by KArl Jung ...
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
  • Commentary by Andreas Meier (Epikur)
    Yawn, who cares. Those who are interested in such commercial hype should enjoy them. For my part, I like musicians and music who and he are not interested in self-expression, but in expression and spiritual content. And artists see themselves more as a medium for good music and art, are driven and make music even when not everyone likes it. And don't see yourself as the center of the show and attention. But I probably belong to a fringe group by now.
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
    1. answer from Shane O'Neill (Diddleydoo)
      "spiritual content". Lol, I've already heard from Karl Jung ...

      This is exactly why you are successful ...
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. answer from Andreas Meier (Epicurus)
      Dear Mr. O'Neill, if your knowledge of the misunderstood genius CARL Gustav Jung corresponds to your spelling, I look forward to every debate with great calm. As it evidently escaped your attention, this is a personal assessment, my disgust for such "music", not an assessment of the excessive success of this semi-state test-tube band. Whether because of our "shadows" or "personae", why shallow bulk goods dominate the world is clear to me.
      Agree agree to the comment
    3. Show answers

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