On October 2, 2018, K-Pop group BTS performed at the United Center in Chicago. BTS fans, known as ARMY (Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth), from around the country waited hours for the chance to buy tickets, and scalpers resold them for over a thousand dollars. Freshman Tasbiha Majumdar was one of the lucky ARMYs to attend the show.
“When I was there the feeling was amazing with everyone cheering plus the light made the whole event beautiful,” she said. “When BTS arrived it was just surreal.”
The Korean Wave, also known as Hallyu, has broken through to the western entertainment world. K-Pop (short for Korean pop) is at the forefront of the wave, led by BTS, or Bangtan Sonyeondan, meaning “bulletproof boy scouts.” They have appeared on numerous US talk shows, such as the Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Tonight Show. BTS has won the fan voted, Top Social Artist award for two consecutive years at the Billboard Music Awards. They have performed at both the BBMAs and the American Music Awards. Their most recent music video, “IDOL,” broke the YouTube record for most views in 24 hours, beating Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.” Besides dominating the music industry, they recently spoke at the United Nations about their “Love Yourself,” campaign. Their devoted ARMY supports them through it all.
Another K-Pop group breaking through to the western market is NCT 127, a sub-unit of NCT (Neo Culture Technology, a group with infinite members and concepts). They recently performed an English version of their latest song “Regular” on Jimmy Kimmel, in partnership with Apple Music as their “Up Next” artist.
K-Pop has shockingly won over the hearts of many fans and the attention of the world.
“K-Pop [is] so unique and different so that’s why they are interested in it,” junior Paula Chanthakhoun said. “For example, when I first got into K-Pop I was so shocked and amazed about how extravagant the music videos were. I noticed that American music videos are kind of low-key and simple but Korean music videos took it to a whole different level.”
Social media has acted as a foundation for the spread of Korean culture. “The Korean industry has thrived very well globally because of the technology we have today,” freshman Serenity Her said. “Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter makes it convenient to learn what is happening within the industry. Also, since it is a new pop style, it brings interest to many younger generations.”
The fandom concept brings a sense of community and belonging to the music. At the BTS concert, “…everyone was so friendly with each other,” Tasbiha added.
K-Pop, and other aspects of the wave, such as Korean dramas, have helped introduce the Korean culture to other countries. Serenity said, “The Hallyu Wave is doing great by bringing a different culture to places like America to spark new interests within the generations of people.”
Not everyone is open about their interest in Korean culture, possibly due to the fear of being judged. “My message to everyone is that we should be open-minded and accepting to all cultures. It’s not weird or unusual to like music or tv shows that is in a different language,” said Paula.
The language barrier doesn’t deter international fans from supporting their favorite groups. Junior Charlotte Vue said, “I think the fact that K-pop Idols can really touch the hearts of people even though they do not speak the language is really amazing.”