‘K-pop’: this is the brutal South Korean pop phenomenon that is sweeping Twitter (and in the real world) | Technology
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In 2021, BTS, the most popular Korean pop group in the world, was mentioned more than the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez by Twitter users in Spain; and also that one of the most popular personalities of the moment, Ibai Llanos. That year, tweets related to the k pop reached 7.8 billion worldwide. The second most shared tweet, behind Joe Biden’s message after being sworn in as president of the United StatesIt was a selfie with a kissing emoticon, tweeted by one of the BTS membersJeon Jung-Kook, who was retweeted almost a million times and received more than three million I like it. In Spain, this musical genre reached the first place in conversations about music, surpassing pop and reggaeton.
The figures that accompany BTS (acronym for boy scouts bulletproof in Korean) and the records they have broken are second only to the Beatles. And, in some respects, the South Koreans have outdone the Liverpool quartet. The magnitude that not only this group has reached, but also the group of musical artists from South Korea, is unprecedented and something that reflects it is the enormous influence that both they and their followers have on Twitter, the conversation platform with almost 400 million users (according to the positioning portal Web Blacklingo).
BTS has two main official profiles on Twitter: onewith more than 45 million followers and otherwith more than 38. With the first, it exceeds the number of the main profile of the real Madridof the Barca and of the influencer Kylie Jenner. The account dedicated to the fictional characters that the seven members of the group designed to sell products from marketing is close to 12 million. The success of these profiles has an unequivocal impact on the rest of the accounts managed by its representative agency, HYBE: the profile of the company has more than three million followers, in the products of merchandise of the different groups it represents (such as TXT, seventeen either hype) accumulates more than five million and in that of its Japanese subsidiary almost reaches half a million.
The domino effect is also transferred to the rest of the great musical groups. The followers of any of them are usually interested in the rest. blackpinkthe most successful group of women in recent years, reaches eight million in one account and six in another, and exofrom the same generation as the latter and BTS, is on the verge of 13. The oldest groups, with members around 40 years old, have a somewhat more institutional activity, while the most recent debutants interact much more direct with their audience and upload selfies, ask them questions, tweet their thoughts, encourage them…
It is striking that artists use Twitter and other platforms (such as Weverse and VLive, specific for content related to this type of music) to create their profiles even before debuting, when they are still applicants, and build a community, as explained by video call to EL PAÍS Kim Yeon-Jeong, head of k pop Global on Twitter Korea.
“Last year we found that fourth-generation groups (debuting from 2018) tweet 5.8 times more than second-generation groups like Super Junior (which debuted in 2005), and twice as much as third-generation groups like EXO or Blackpink (active since 2012 and 2016, respectively). The fourth generation artists get closer to the fans, in a very friendly way. Now, the relationship is more horizontal”, he says.
The importance that Korean culture reaches on Twitter and other platforms is not only translated in the enormous number of interactions, but also in its direct influence on the social landscape. A few days after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis (Minnesota, USA) police officer in May 2020, BTS tweeted that it was against racial discrimination and condemned violence and donated a million dollars to the movement Black Lives Matter. Within 24 hours, a charitable organization managed by its fans he matched the donation and raised another million dollars for the cause, following in the footsteps of his idols. ”It was amazing to see how some fans they can lead movements like this and influence the world to make us better,” says Kim Yeon-Jeong.
According to the company representative, in the movement stop asian hate (against hate crimes targeting the Asian community, which rose to prominence last year) ”BTS was also influenced, and their messages related to that cause influenced the fans in particular and in people in general. In fact, your post about it became the most shared tweet of the year.
When the news of the invasion of Ukraine and the conflict with Russia became known, that enormous capacity for mobilization was once again manifested. ARMYS (as BTS fans are called) from all over the world showed their solidarity with Ukrainian ARMYS and, from profiles supporting that and other groups, such as Stray Kids or ateez, tried to raise funds for those affected. That day they also conquered Twitter.
Spending some time observing the community of followers of this musical genre, it fascinates, in addition to the enormous volume of daily interactions, the diversity of languages in which enthusiasts communicate. If you look at the activity of the idols (idols, as the artists of the k pop), some groups and profiles tweet from time to time in English, but most often the communication takes place in Korean. Even so, it is not a problem for users who do not know the language, thanks to the translation tool offered by Twitter.
Kim Yeon-Jeong describes the relationship between the members as “diversity in togetherness.” ”This community is one of the most diverse. The fans are very united as a group, but at the same time they are very varied in terms of their country of origin, language, etc.” In addition to that, they are characterized by the respect and support that is breathed in the content that the followers upload from one group to another. ”Probably, they are fans very different from soccer teams,” Kim acknowledges.
In the case of k pop, it is difficult to find discussions between followers of different artists or disrespect towards idols that are not admired. “It would be feasible that between a specific very popular group and another, like BTS and EXO, there would be some kind of rivalry, but in general they support their favorite group in a very positive way,” Kim insists.
Some even support all groups of the same company. For example, the group of artists from SM (the agency that founded in 1996 the first group of k pop as such, H.OT.). ”It’s a unique culture and one that shows a lot of dedication,” explains Kim. That kind of dedication has a name in Korean: 총공 (chonggong), which means ”full attack” in the positive sense. When it’s an artist’s birthday or an album’s release date approaches, users flood the platform with messages related to the topic of the day.
A paradigmatic example of chonggong It was produced just a few days ago in the wake of the Grammy music awards. BTS received a nomination for Best Pop Duo or Group Performance for their song entirely in English. dynamite (dynamite); the second in a row. The day of the awards ceremony (and the days before) the conversation about the gala was dominated by the group’s followers, in part because it was also going to perform at the event. The artist or group that was tweeted about the most, according to Twitter data, was BTS, ahead of Olivia Rodrigo, the new star, who received three awards, and the rest. And all despite not having emerged victorious.
They also starred in the most shared tweets of the night. Some they were published from their official profile and others who did not upload they were so successful precisely because the seven idols appeared, as can be seen in the shares of the entertainment publications E! news and Entertainment Tonight.
Little by little, the South Korean series, the k drama, They have also been dominating the conversations on the platform, since everything that has to do with this country has become extremely popular in recent years, thanks in large part to social networks, and, moreover, well before Netflix produced the squid game and from what parasites won the Oscar for best film. The so-called ”Korean wave”, 한류 (hallyu, in Korean), monopolizes an increasingly greater presence in global culture and in Spanish. Kim Yeon-Jeong argues that the way this is manifested on Twitter is because on that platform “the fans can find what is happening in the world of k pop very simply”.
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