Bangtan is Coming for You, America

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BTS (방탄소년단). 2017. Photo courtesy of BigHit Entertainment.

Let me preface this by saying that, yes, I am somewhat a BTS fan. But no, I am not an ARMY. Like some of the groups I listen to, there are quite a few reasons why I tend to avoid their fandoms and sometimes have a love/hate relationship with their companies. But I digress…this is not about the ills of Kpop. This is about how BTS is coming for America.

And none are prepared.

In all seriousness…when is anyone ever prepared for Bangtan? 피 땀 는물 (Blood, Sweat, and Tears) came out and fans just about lost their minds. Honestly, you should’ve seen the views (and comments) skyrocket in a matter of moments. Although it wasn’t the first time, this particular music video (MV) reminded me that YouTube is clearly not prepared for repetition of a single MV during comeback season. YouTube actually freezes the view count thinking some to be spam.

Maybe on another video, YouTube. These views, regardless of the short time frame, are real. I promise you they are.

(That goes for most MVs of Kpop groups during a comeback. Just look at Monsta X, Twice, Seventeen and EXID’s recent comebacks and the number of comments about frozen views.)

Billboard thought they were prepared for Bangtan, but they seriously (and I do mean, seriously) underestimated the power of Kpop fandoms. They thought they were handling fans well with Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. Let me tell you a little not-so secret: fandoms roll deep (internationally). Good or bad, they will stand (emphasis added) their group and some will even bulldoze a path for their group to get to the top.

And that was just for an award from social media. Now you’re putting this group on local news stations AND having them perform.

So again I tell you, you are not prepared.

Kpop groups, Bangtan included, get just about as many views for their dance practice videos as their official MVs. Non-kpop fans are about to be dazzled by colors, J-Hope’s hair flips, and about 5 million hours worth of practice. Not to mention that you caught them JUST after releasing a new single and album (full-album, too) that’s already pretty Westernized (along with the “name change,” which is a whole separate discussion). I guarantee there will be new people tuning in to the American Music Awards tomorrow who wouldn’t normally watch it.

Now the question(s) of the weekend: will you watch just for BTS (and apparently GOT7’s Jackson is supposed to attend as a representative for China’s Alibaba Tmall)? Are you hyped for their performance? Do you prefer English versions of their songs or the original? What do you think about this American takeover business? Let me know in the comments!

Well, whatever you watch/do tomorrow night, just remember, stay legit my peeps.

Nyke

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My Two Cents: Gook & The Battleship Island

In the time after completing a course and preparing for work on the site and my Korean class I saw two films: Gook by Justin Chon and The Battleship Island (군함도) by Ryoo Seung Wan. I figured I’d give my two cents—with little scholarly influence. I’ll save that for my scholarly blog (coming soon!).

Gook (released August 18, 2017) depicts a typical day in the life of two Korean-American brothers who own a struggling women’s shoe store and entertain their 11-year-old Black family friend that is turned upside down by the 1992 LA riots after the Rodney King verdict. Although there is distance from the riots in South Central (where my family resided during the riots) and no mention of tension between Black and Korean Americans due to the death of Latasha Harlins by Du Soon Ja, it tells a beautiful (and hilarious, thanks to David So) story of the camaraderie and tensions between various ethnic groups that juxtaposes the usual LA riots narrative that only deals with Black citizens and White cops. It also adds a perspective that is commonly left out: the Asian American one. What captured my heart the most was the teaching of the real meaning of gook (국), country, and how that related to the connection of two families seemingly distant from one another.

The Battleship Island (군함도, released August 4, 2017), tells the story of an attempted prison break from a forced coal-mining labor camp on Hashima Island during the Japanese occupation-era. Although the film is not all true (based on true accounts, though), it showcases the little known history of Hashima Island and the only recently discussed stories of comfort women in sexual slavery. The film forces all to look at the atrocities of many (not only those of Japanese descent) during this particular wartime, but also displays hope, camaraderie, and love in order to make it out.

What I love about both films

First off, I am a history buff. I enjoy learning and understanding how history influences the present. Another reason is influenced by two quotes:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

George Santayana, philosopher and novelist

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

Dr. Maya Angelou, writer and activist

Both films display why we continue to see war films—especially those set during World War II—films about slavery in the United States, and films that depict little known or publicized histories (sometimes as biopics). I believe that Gook and The Battleship Island are wonderful examples of why films like them should be made.

Secondly, I love how both films dealt with the themes of displacement and home. Gook does this through its depiction of family and legacy from both immigrant and native perspectives in a store that serves as home for both but is being threatened by chaos caused by the riots. There is no protection of these youths’ dreams and futures outside of the little they can salvage with the help of one parental figure (Mr. Kim) and Jesus because of no police protection. The Battleship Island does this through actual displacement (rather, isolation) and the will to go on and fight because of a desire to return home. This desire bands many would-be strangers together for that one common goal: home.

All that said, I definitely recommend both films as I was left speechless at the endings. See them in theatres while you still can!

Stay legit, y’all!
Nyke