WorldView: A Language Blog

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WorldView Good Reads: North Korean Fears of South Korean Culture

Published: October 26, 2021

In 2013, a relatively unknown corporation in South Korea, Big Hit Entertainment, debuted an all-boy seven-member K-pop band. Their name was BTS, which stands for Bangt'an Sonyondan, or Bullet-proof Boy Scouts. 

Campers dance to a K-pop song at Sup sogui Hosu, the Korean Language Village.
Villagers dance to K-pop at Sup sogŭi Hosu.

While BTS was not the first K-pop band to become popular overseas, nor did the group's videos hold the record for most views on YouTube as did Kangnam Style in 2012, it has grown to become the most popular K-pop group in the history of the industry. The members of BTS have also become spokespeople for global youth, granted speaking spots at the UN, for example. They were even given free reign of the United Nations' building, as you can see from this explosive video, Permission to Dance, from last month. In late November they are scheduled to perform in L.A. in the first live K-pop concert since the beginning of the pandemic. Tickets are expected to sell within seconds. 

The popularity of K-pop is one of the causes for the spike in interest in the Korean language over the last ten years, especially among non-heritage speakers. K-pop has also raised the ire of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a potential security threat, since some K-pop materials are finding their way into North Korea. For more on what K-pop is doing in North Korea, see my recent KEI blog post, North Korean Fears of South Korean Culture.

And if you are one of the lucky few to get a ticket to the live performance of Permission to Dance in L.A., share your photos with us!

About the Author

Dafna Zur holds up her name tag at Sup sogui Hosu, the Korean Language Village

Dafna Dahee Zur (다희) is an Associate Professor of Korean literature and culture in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures of Stanford University. She also serves as the Director of the Center for East Asian Studies. This is her 17th year on Concordia Language Villages staff and her 9th year as the dean of Sup Sogŭi Hosu. She earned her Ph.D. in Korean language and literature from UBC, with research covering topics such as North Korean science fiction, the Korean War in North and South Korean children’s literature, childhood in cinema, and Korean popular culture. In 2017, her first book was published with Stanford University Press with the title Figuring Korean Futures: Children’s Literature in Modern Korea. She has also published translations in, The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Short Stories, and the Asia Literary Review.

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