The general public may be catching up with k-pop in the US, but the fandom knows there is a lot of history behind the industry. Over the decades, South Korea has debuted hundreds of idol groups, but none have managed to succeed abroad like BTS. As the band’s popularity continues to rise, fans have started to question whether BTS is a fluke in k-pop or perhaps something bigger.
Now, one fan’s response to the question is going viral, and international fans are buzzing about its Korean perspective.
Over on Reddit, the k-pop fandom flocked to a post written by user /lagamine86. The Korean fan wrote up a lengthy explanation of how BTS is viewed by the general public at home.
“It's important to understand how we (Koreans) understand the term "K-pop". The term is not used in Korea except for in a foreign context (eg: on the news about BTS' US performances and chart achievements). Here, pop songs sung in Korean by boy/girl groups put together by music companies are called "idol music" or "idol pop" and is generally not listened to or much respected by those older than 21-22 mainly for the reason that, to us (I'm in my 30s), it is not really Korean,” the fan writes.
The post, which can be read in full here, goes on to explain that true Korean music is often defined by locals by its use of Han. The term doesn’t have a direct English translation, but it describes an emotional state of powerlessness which feeds into hope. The fan explains how much of Korean entertainment uses the frame except for idol music, but BTS has proven itself to be an exception to that rule.
“I think the Korean general public is now fascinated with BTS because they are packaged like a typical idol group and so in the beginning most of us older than 21-22 would have dismissed them as another idol group making idol music. But then they kept defying the odds and posted incredible results in the US, and that's when the Korean general public (myself included) started wondering "what is it that the West sees that we're not seeing? Could it be that this is not a typical idol group or their music isn't really idol music?" It turns out, their music is extremely Korean,” the post reveals.
“It turns out, their music is extremely Korean. I sense Han in almost all their title songs but especially in Spring Day, and it's no coincidence that it's Spring Day that drew in so many Korean fans in their 30s, 40s, etc. On top of that, their personal story of struggling and finally being acknowledged in the industry is also full of Han. And this has led me (and I'm sure many others in Korea who otherwise wouldn't touch idol music/K-pop with a 12-foot pole) to realise that they are Korean artists producing true Korean music.”
The post ends with the fan revealing their side on the BTS k-pop debate, and it isn’t too surprising to hear they side against it. In this case, BTS’s idol personas were not enough to overshadow the group’s emphasis on Han, but there are fans who admit they are not sold on the delineation. As for others, well - they are fine just letting BTS be themselves whether that is k-pop or not.
Which side of this BTS debate do you fall on? Hit me up on Twitter @MeganPetersCB to let me know and talk all things comics, k-pop, and anime!