K-pop as a Social Movement: Case Study of BTS and Their Fandom ARMY
Keywords:K-pop fandom, Fan activism, K-pop activism, K-pop fans and politics, K-pop, K-pop influence, Social Movement, Social Movement Theory, BTS, ARMY
This study investigates K-pop and K-pop fandom as an ongoing social movement. With popular South Korean group BTS as a case study, I examine how their fans join together and use collective action to create social change. My research answered three primary questions: (1) “How have K-pop fans been involved in societal causes prior to their recent surge in activism in 2020?,” (2) “To what extent does K-pop represent a social movement?,” and (3) “Do either K-pop music or the artists themselves contribute to fan participation in social advocacy, and if so, how?” I find that K-pop fans do constitute a social movement due to their use of extra-institutional tactics, based on John Fiske’s (1992) concept of fandom as “subversive by design,” Henry Jenkins’ (1992) participatory fan culture framework, and Social Movement Theory (King, 2011). I also further Yoon’s (2017) thesis that pop culture can give those who face a lack of resources and authority a means to challenge the status quo, emphasizing K-pop fans’ innovative use of social media mobilization. By explaining how K-pop and its fans can be understood as a social movement, my research rethinks how we consider K-pop fandom and at the same time encourages K-pop fans to continue their activism work and to expand further. Through a literature review and my own observations framed by theories, I conclude that K-pop fans demonstrate potential to be a powerful force for social change.
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