How BTS is helping South Korea to increase soft power

BTS contributes around 2654 crore annually to the South Korean Economy

If you follow pop-culture, you have probably heard about BTS. You might even be a fan or at least an admirer of the band. The 7-boys band BTS – “Bangtan Sonyeondan” which means “Beyond the Scene” in English, was recently named the TIME’s Entertainer of the year 2020. South Korean parliament recently passed a law which allowed K-pop stars like BTS to delay their compulsory military service until the age of 30. In South Korea, all able-bodied citizen aged between 18 to 28 has to serve in the country’s military for about 20 months. But the new law allows K-pop stars to defer the service if recommended by the culture minister. The move was announced just before BTS’s oldest member, Jin was about to become 28. There is a reason why South Korean government has given this exception to the K-pop stars.

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The success of BTS

BTS band has had an unprecedented international success after their debut in 2013. The popularity of music-band has spread from South Korea to almost every corner of the world. BTS became the most popular band in 2018 with a Top Social Artist Award and two albums in the Billboard Top 200. As per the research of Hyundai Research Institute, the band is estimated to bring more than 3.6 billion dollars (approx. 2654 crore in Indian rupees) into the South Korean economy every year.

The international success of BTS and other Korean bands like EXO and Blackpink is an example of the proliferation of South Korean soft power with the help of savvy crafting of an image and a message that resonates across cultural boundaries. BTS members were called to speak at the launch of Generation Unlimited at the UN headquarters in New York by the UNICEF.

How BTS is helping in increasing Soft Power?

The most successful Korean pop culture producer, BTS has contributed a large sum in the economy of South Korea. Apart from the sales of music, concert tickets and merchandise, they have been an influence for the travellers coming to South Korea as they have an interest in the band. It was estimated that around 8 lakh tourists to South Korea, which was around 7 per cent of the total tourists, were motivated to visit South Korea because of the band.

The members of the band have been named as Seoul’s (Capital of South Korea) Honorary Tourism Ambassadors, and have been attracting visitors with the “Live Seoul Like I Do” initiative that seeks to draw tourists to favourite locations of band members. The South Korean government’s website provides a list of locations where BTS’s videos and album covers have been shot and encourages tourists to recreate the scene or relish the place where their favourite band was once standing, breathe the same air and see the same view.

BTS also helps the country to exemplify the power of grassroots people-to-people diplomacy in spreading soft power. People to people diplomacy here means that when positive feelings about a country is developed and spread through shared experiences amongst people across cultural divides.

The themes of the music videos of BTS are universal and offers listeners solace in the face of personal struggles. This encourages them to speak for themselves and speak about themselves. The fan base of the BTS band is huge and they are called BTS Army. Bilingual fans provide subtitles and translations to BTS videos and songs. They translate news stories related to them as well. Globally, fans coordinate foe promotional and support campaigns for the band along with organizing offline social activities.

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