South Korean boy band BTS, which stands for ‘Bangtan Sonyeondan’ or ‘Bulletproof Boy Scouts’, are the only Asian band to have two number one albums in an Asian language on the ARIA album chart.
Globally, BTS is one of the major K-pop bands and its popularity has increased the exposure of the genre in the west.
Macquarie University eastern music and Korean cultural researcher Dr Sarah Keith says being a US ally, and importing US culture and music, makes Korea attuned to western popular culture.
“Therefore, it is more able to adapt western pop than China and Japan and this influence from the USA has made K-pop more approachable for global audiences,” she says.
‘K Club’ event organiser, DJ Dokkaebi, says BTS’s success in the west is due to persistence.
‘’When they first debuted, there wasn’t much support in terms of fans, but they kept going at it and never quit,’’ he says.
“They have such a huge A.R.M.Y. fandom now, which has grown and will keep growing, we are looking at 40 million plus adorable representative mc for youths.
“They are passionate, sometimes a little too much, and support their love for all things BTS, with a huge fanbase now in Australia.’’
Mr Han says BTS’s story is not just about music, but the rise of Korea’s public profile.
“It’s not simply just about K-pop or BTS, but the sort of growing global visibility of Korea as a country. It’s sort of a culture industry and BTS is the shining example of how far Korea has come in that regard.”
DJ Dokkaebi thinks BTS didn’t make K-pop mainstream, but had a hand in exposing the genre to a huge fanbase.
“K-pop itself has evolved as a mainstream genre over the years, people want to relate to things, people want to live different lives and experience different cultures, and K-pop just brings another way of doing that,” he says.
“SBS pop Asia has also been a big reason for the growth here in Australia.
“I remember when it was back on TV, I’d watch it most mornings after a big night out and I’d simply just be gobsmacked by the amazing production levels.”
Mr Han thinks K-pop will continue to gain popularity.
“I think it’s the same thing for BTS, people listen to all different kinds of music all the time on various sorts of playlists, and K-pop will continue to be popular because it’s just music.”