By Sunwoo Park
On a Friday evening, I sat next to my dad who was watching the news. I glanced at the TV waiting for the next boring news. But soon I found myself staring at the TV screen. Next to Miley Cyrus, the Chainsmokers, and Desiigner, was the Korean boy band called the “Bangtan Boys (BTS)” at the AMAs. BTS was the first K-Pop group to ever perform on a major American award show, making another historical moment in Hallyu, the Korean cultural wave.
BTS broke not only the cultural barriers through K-Pop but also broke the social stereotypes and obstacles by spreading powerful messages through their songs. Their songs often deliver powerful messages by including themes of female-empowerment, social injustice, and mental health, which are unusual themes in culturally-conservative South Korea. “Baepsae / Silver Spoon” is an epitome of one of the main messages of BTS that inspire social changes in our society. The symbol of the worsening social division and hierarchical conflict in Korea lies behind “Baepsae/ Silver Spoon.” Among younger generations in Korea, “the spoon class theory” has become a viral concept which originates from the western idiom “born with a silver spoon in your mouth”. The spoon class theory ranks people into four groups of “spoons” -- gold, silver, bronze, dirt -- according to their financial status. By using lyrics such as "What ‘spoon’ are you, to say that? Why do you label me, ‘this spoon, that spoon’? I’m a human” in their song, BTS criticizes the spoon class theory prevalent in Korea. “Baepsae / Silver Spoon” also expresses the frustration against social immobility and the obstacles that financially disadvantaged people have to face by comparing the “dirt spoon class” to crows and the “silver spoon class” to the dominant storks. This song accurately describes the struggle of the younger generation not only in Korea but also around the world, as social inequality and the wealth gap have increasingly become a problem in our society.
BTS also did not forget to include a message of empowerment for their largest fan base: young girls. Though South Korea is known to be the beauty capital of the world, with numerous cosmetic shops, beauty products, and multi-step skin-care routines, the world often fails to capture the dark side of K-beauty. South Korean people often get discriminated based only on their physical appearance. With the incredibly high standards of beauty, Korea ranks first for the country with the highest cosmetic rate which allows people to get double eyelids, larger eyes, smaller faces, and simply a close-to-perfect face. Low esteem caused by the ideal body image is not only a problem in Korea but all over the world. While in the pop industry, we often see artists sexualizing and degrading women, BTS spreads a message of female empowerment through the song “21st-century girls.” Lyrics such as "If someone keeps cursing at you. Tell 'em you’re my lady, go tell them. Whatever anyone else says, whatever this world says you are my best, just as you are,” BTS encourages their female audience to love themselves instead of listening to the criticisms the world has to offer. The song’s chorus repeats in the song, ensuring that every girl is perfect and worth so much: "You worth it, you perfect. Deserve it, just work it."
In the pop-dominated culture we live in, the Bangtan Boys successfully utilized the tool of pop music to spread the message of social inequality and injustice that young generation often faces. Because these social problems apply all around the world, the younger generations in America has also been able to be inspired through these songs. The name Bangtan boys, literally “bulletproof boys”, means that they would block any social stereotype or oppression with their songs and values. Through their songs and performances, we can realize that they are true to their name.
BTS at AMAs
Source: Getty Images
Remember when BTS gifted Halsey a SnackFever Box?