John Lie teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, and is the writer of “K-pop: Economic Innovation, Cultural Amnesia, and Popular Music in Contemporary South Korea.”
U.S. President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 20 imploded past his enemies’ wildest goals. Over a million people registered electronically and perhaps 100,000 had been predicted to expose up — but simplest 6,2 hundred went through the turnstiles at the BOK Center.
Were leftist protesters blockading the entrance, as a few within the Trump camp alleged? Did Oklahomans and their pals fear approximately COVID-19 transmission? One not going solution, because the media have said, had been Korean pop track, or K-pop, lovers, who had determined to make the occasion a flop by applying for tickets then no longer turning up, in disgust at Trump’s words and regulations.
Music fans have lengthy mixed their passion with political activism, but hardly ever in this scale or with this public an impact. How K-pop fanatics came to be a political pressure and how they capitalize on social media to do so is worth knowledge.
In South Korea in the mid-1990s, K-pop emerged as export-orientated pop that mixed the modern day tendencies in African-American-stimulated popular track and dance; an specific reliance at the internet and social media to disseminate songs and videos; and the active cultivation of participatory fandom. Making inroads into China and Japan within the overdue Nineties, it had end up a international sensation with the aid of the past due 2010s. Indeed, its largest foreign places fan base can also now be in North America.
BTS, the most popular K-pop group, has been number one for over a hundred and eighty directly weeks at the music alternate journal Billboard’s Social 50 that ranks the maximum famous musicians on social media. BTS fans, who name themselves Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth, or ARMY, quantity themselves in the millions.
From their desired perch on Twitter — one issue they proportion with the U.S. President — they meander across the virtual panorama and make their presence regarded on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and other famous virtual hangouts. In 2019, there had been 6 billion tweets approximately K-pop.
But how does K-pop fandom cross from cultivating cultlike devotion with commercial implications to becoming a political player? We need to now not look to K-pop manufacturers or artists. They are not any Taylor Swifts enjoining their followers to vote Democratic. The bands have a tendency to be resolutely nonpolitical; they’re out to thrill fanatics and make cash, not to trade the world. However, BTS especially strain messages of private empowerment and do no longer simply sing however additionally act to combat prejudice and violence.
Furthermore, K-pop fanatics, whether or not in South Korea or the U.S., are a ways from passive automatons. Intense on-line exchanges are not just about who has the maximum lovable hair fashion or what the best institution is, however also encompass social, cultural and political topics. It is set deeds too: fans have been making items to charity and nonprofit groups for years.
K-pop fanatics research dance movements at KCON USA in Los Angeles in August 2018: they’re some distance from passive automatons. ©Reuters
One result of a multicultural upbringing is Gen Z’s enormous, almost reflexive, anti-racist sentiments. Some K-pop enthusiasts, similarly, are touchy to the debt that K-pop owes to African-American song particularly and the overall ethos of woke tradition: a consensus at the evils of racism, sexism and homophobia.
The shocking video of George Floyd’s painful loss of life sprang a number of ARMY and other K-pop lovers, especially inside the U.S., into action. They spammed #WhiteLivesMatter, a racist response to #BlackLivesMatter, and Trump’s online birthday card. BTS ARMY raised $1 million for Black Lives Matter organizations.
The majority of BTS or K-pop lovers are not political activists, however given the massive fan base even a small minority could make a massive effect. And one aspect K-pop lovers — most of them virtual natives — know how to do is to elevate their favourite agencies’ likes and followers, generate tendencies and make matters go viral.
Their repeated successes have empowered them. For maximum fans, it isn’t a lot of an attempt to click on some instances to assist an amazing purpose and revel in the fine popularity for K-pop and K-pop fandom.
Neither ARMY nor K-pop fandom will become a everlasting force in American politics. But what they constitute are teenagers tradition and social media, which aren’t going away.
Almost precisely a yr ago, Trump visited South Korea, and President Moon Jae-in welcomed him and his entourage with K-pop boy institution Exo in tow. We do not know what Trump concept of Exo, but we know what Exo lovers notion of Trump on the time. Their terrible response have to have alerted him to the capability peril of K-pop fandom.