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BTS and EXO: The soft power roots of K-pop

EXO BTS and Psy

  • K-pop has slowly taken over the globe with slick production, military-level discipline and years of training for the promoted pop stars. Boy bands like EXO, which debuted in 2011, were dizzyingly successful due to state-level backing and control.

  • Psy’s record ‘Gangnam Style’ became an international craze, garnering 3.5 billion Youtube views and praise from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

  • Boy-band BTS became best-selling artists worldwide, earning USD 4.65 billion in 2019 for their country.

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BTS and EXO: The soft power roots of K-pop

BTS and EXO: The soft power roots of K-pop

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20200309-the-soft-power-roots-of-k-pop

bbc.com

7

Key Ideas

K-Pop

It’s hard not to like K-Pop(Pop music from South Korea), with its infectious tunes, doll-like stars, high-production values and great dance moves. In the last few decades, South Korean culture has stormed across the world. This ‘Hallyu’, or the ‘Korean Culture Wave’ is not an accident, but a deliberate promotion by those in power.

Origins

The Original K-Pop Stars, The Kim Sisters, were a hit in the U.S. back in 1959.

In the mid-90s, Seo Taiji & Boys became the first ‘modern K-Pop’ stars. K-Dramas or Korean soaps also started gaining traction in Asia and beyond. The South Korean government started exporting popular media culture as an economic initiative, making it a major source of foreign revenue.

South Korean Culture Storm

Be it music, TV, or films, South Korea’s culture is sought after across the world. South Korean movies, high on emotional content, were always a favourite of many, and recently ‘Parasite’ won Best Picture Oscar, even though it was not an American film.


Cosmetic and Skincare products from South Korea have a global demand, selling in billions. Travel and food industry has seen high growth, owing to the popularity of Korean music and TV soaps.

Southern Wind Reaching the North

North Korea, where most people do not have the kind of freedom that South Korea enjoy, feel the impact of the foreign media the most. The people who have escaped the prison-like regime of North Korea get a culture shock when they realize that life isn’t what the propaganda machines have been drilling in their minds for decades.

Pop Culture Risks

Watching pop culture content in North Korea carries a huge risk, which can also amount to public execution in some cases. Yet by the use of technology like pen drives and mobile phones(which are only with a small fraction of the population), the residents are able to watch the foreign media secretly.

Culture as a Weapon

Culture is a soft weapon, with the power to influence people’s minds by emotions and targeted information. Culture shows the sides of life not seen otherwise, exposing people to love, truth and dreams.

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