Global K-pop fans emerge as political force, but some in South Korea worry

SEOUL (Reuters) – Some tech-savvy fans of K-pop music have emerged as increasingly active players in American politics, but at the birthplace of the genre, South Korean fans are suspicious that their favorite artists are drawn into foreign partisan fights.

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of the President of the United States, Donald Trump, expect him to appear on stage 27 minutes before the scheduled start of his speech, at his first re-election campaign rally in several months amid the outbreak of the disease of the coronavirus (COVID-19), at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA. USA, June 20, 2020. REUTERS / Leah Millis

Fans of Korean pop artists, including the popular BTS, have rallied around America’s top political movements in recent weeks, using their online communities and mobile apps to encourage participation and donations.

K-pop fans and users of TikTok, a popular video-sharing app, were given partial credit for inflating attendance expectations at a less-than-crowded stadium at the U.S. President Donald Trump rally in Oklahoma over the weekend. week.

Earlier this month, they got into social media protests against racism and police brutality, with BTS fans matching the band’s $ 1 million donation to Black Lives Matter (BLM).

“Mobile device-based communication channels favored by the millennial generation provide an effective means to quickly spread their political voices and mobilize support,” said Jung Duk-hyun, a cultural critic from South Korea.

The BLM donation fits into a long history of BTS and other groups that donate to social and humanitarian causes, including supporting Syrian refugees and efforts to stop violence against children.

But the incident with the Trump campaign sparked further debate among fans in South Korea, who do not appear to have been significantly involved in that effort. Young South Korean artists rarely get involved with their country’s politics, and many fan forums prohibit political discussions.

Chang Ju-yeon, a 22-year-old student, said that many Korean fans support BTS-led human rights campaigns, but that the singers should not be used in American politics.

“We are proud that BTS is leading those efforts as global artists, and we want to raise our voices together on universal themes that win everyone’s sympathy,” Chang told Reuters.

“But artists should stay away from domestic politics, as some people could take advantage of their fame for political purposes and would eventually harm them again,” added Chang.

A spokeswoman for Big Hit Entertainment, BTS’s administrative label, declined to comment.

Rosanna Scotto, host of a local FOX affiliate in New York, apologized on Twitter on Monday after some fans criticized her for asking the K-pop group TXT about Trump’s demonstration during an interview that day. Group members seemed confused and did not answer the question.

“Wow. We didn’t want you to ask them that rude question about the Trump rally, that’s for sure,” a Twitter user who identified himself as a North Carolina-based K-pop fan told Scotto.

Scotto replied: “Sorry … it was trending on Twitter. I had no idea that would bother you.

A post shared Sunday on theqoo, a popular fan site, that featured US news reports. USA On the interruptions of K-pop fans at the Trump rally in Oklahoma, he received mixed responses.

While some users cheered and made supporting comments, others expressed concern that it would hurt artists and the K-pop industry.

“There could be differences between fans about how they relate to their stars in their everyday lives, as some might view their group of fans online as an exclusive channel to share their interests and love, and others use it more actively as a broader platform to express themselves, “said Jung, the cultural critic.

The BLM campaign garnered support largely after BTS donations, but some Korean fans urged Americans to stop “forcing others to give money” and respect people’s rights to express themselves.

“BLM was understandable since it was about human rights, but it makes me uncomfortable to see my idols appear in the Trump-related news,” a fan wrote Monday on Weverse, the official app from the BTS fan community.

Hyonhee Shin’s report. Additional reporting by Josh Smith. Edition by Gerry Doyle

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