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Welcome to BTS world

June 11,2018
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BTS accepts the award for top social artist at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 20 in Las Vegas. [AP/YONHAP]
Sunny Yang
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Although it was short-lived, Korean boy band BTS’s third album “The Love Yourself: Tear” enjoyed sitting at the top of the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, the world’s most famous music ranking. The news was surreal. A week earlier, the seven-member group brought home the Top Social Artist award from the 2018 Billboard Music Awards for the second year in a row. The American audience raved and broke into tears singing along with lyrics in Korean as the band performed on stage.

Their fans, known as “Army,” are behind BTS’s overseas popularity. They are loyal and earnest in their service to the band. They voluntarily spread the Korean-style fandom. They pre-order albums and download music. Their reward is self-fulfillment. Some may call them a mob.

But the enthusiasts take pleasure and pride in witnessing their beloved stars grow bigger and bigger. BTS treats its fan base with true love. They thank their Army before anyone and express love whenever they can. The power of social media is the new weapon in stardom. Social media is where BTS and its fans across the world communicate and stay close.

Fans are not just devoted to their relationship with the star. They commit to one another. They create their own community with common love and share a unique connection and empathy. They labor to translate the lyrics to their own language to spread the music.

BTS has changed the Asian stereotype. The band joined the mainstream, but not through a comical image like Psy. The boy group appealed to music lovers and listeners across the world with its originality and freshness. BTS charms the new millennia generation who were born and grew up in America with less prejudice to other races and languages. BTS’s creativity has hit home with the mainstream where technology and media innovations and the sensitivity of the new generation blend, said pop music critic Cha Woo-jin.

Poet and novelist Jang Jung-il irked fans with his critical view of the book “BTS, Revolution of Art” that explained how the boy band has upset and reinvented the mainstream. He sneered that English-language supremacy does not go away just because young Americans sing Korean songs and snubbed the so-called cult-like infatuation over a pop culture phenomenon. Jang mocked the idea of changing the world through pop music and glorifying a boy band in philosophical language and analysis.

Rafranz Davis, an educator who taught himself the Korean language after discovering BTS, recalled that “BTS happened to come in my life during a time of personal reflection” in an article titled “How a K-pop band pushed me beyond barriers.”
Lee Ji-hyeng, a professor at Dankook University, echoed Davis’ opinion.

“When someone who has never thought much about people outside their world due to an innate feeling of supremacy over others tries to learn and understand a new language and culture after becoming a BTS fan, that person enters and becomes connected to a broader world and culture,” wrote Lee, an avid BTS fan.

If this is not a revolution that can change an individual and the world, I cannot say what is.

JoongAng Sunday, June 9-10, Page 34