Very different ‘heroes’: Samsung Galaxy and boy band BTS
“Do you know what Korean people call the judiciary now? Korean people call it the Bulletproof Judges. If Bulletproof Boy Scouts (BTS) hear this, they will feel very uncomfortable.”
This remark was made by a member of the National Assembly at a parliamentary audit session on October 10 in South Korea. The comment shows that BTS, a popular South Korean boy band, has now become a celebrity among celebrities, everywhere in South Korean society. In fact, BTS’s popularity has gone beyond South Korea, into Asia, beyond Asia, into Europe and the Americas, and into the United Nations, attracting the attention of global media.
It is not only BTS that is prompting the world to pay attention to South Korea. In the smartphone industry, the Samsung Galaxy played an early role as a hero. Samsung is also frequently mentioned in the political circles of South Korea, and there is no doubt that BTS and Samsung significantly contribute to South Korea’s national brand and economy.
Living in Singapore, I used to thank myself for the fact that South Korea exported BTS and Samsung globally. Because of these two heroes, I feel that South Korea’s status has risen considerably. Nevertheless, BTS is serving a purpose that the Samsung Galaxy has not.
Above all, BTS has had a great influence on the molding of consciousness among youth around the world. Beyond merely singing and dancing, they are preaching their lyrics as global messages to the world. The seven-minute speech they delivered at the UN headquarters in New York on September 24 was a self-reflective and touching discourse to encourage youth to adopt a positive lifestyle.
At one time, South Korea’s Psy attracted worldwide attention with “Gangnam Style,” but that was a craze that focused mainly on dance and performance. Therefore, for the youth who worship BTS’s remarks and thoughts, it is likely that BTS will be a positive role model.
BTS has boosted interest in the Korean language, which is something that Psy and Samsung’s Galaxy have not done. In recent years, the number of students who try to talk to me in Korean has increased sharply. They said they learned Korean by watching BTS music videos. The phenomenon of youth learning Korean from BTS music videos is an amazing development that I have not seen before. Learning a country’s language puts a person one step closer to that nation’s history, culture and society.
As we are witnessing, BTS is changing the minds and consciousness of youth around the world in a positive direction, through self-reflective and uplifting messages. In addition, they have made a tremendous contribution to the globalization of the Korean language and have accomplished many feats that South Korea has not been able to achieve with its national administration power.
With the title “Next Generation Leaders,” they now have a tremendous influence over the country, as they are cover models for Time magazine in October. Therefore, BTS can be a lesson for other Asian countries seeking to improve their brand and value beyond short-term economic gains through manufacturing. This is a meaningful example of the country’s soft power being promoted by private sector efforts.
Young people around the world are more likely to listen to BTS’s messages and share them with their friends in social media than to the upbringing of their parents or to the life advice I deliver in the classroom or to any enlightened message that the state conveys to the public.
BTS have recently confirmed that they will be touring Singapore in January. I am curious about what messages they will send to Singapore’s youth, including my students.