Why is the argument “BTS isn’t K-pop” being raised and who is raising it? To what degree is this argument “Western” in origin? What is the role of the media in this discussion?
I have seen a number of fans on social media using the argument “BTS isn’t K-pop” to claim the pre-eminence of BTS.
The term K-pop itself has been treated as an othered term, and the othering process has only intensified since the West started appropriating the term to indicate the superiority of Western cultural industry. The argument “BTS isn’t K-pop” seems to be used to battle against the Western media’s projection of BTS as the Other, but ironically, differentiating BTS from K-pop reaffirms the orientalist foundation of the term K-pop. The ironic stance can be tolerated partly because of the harsh competition among the idol fandoms.
The Western media has been appropriating the term K-pop as an othered mirror to prove the superiority of the West and has set the framework of the K-pop discourse as superior vs. inferior. It is not difficult to find Western articles that focus on the “dark sides” of K-pop or that describe K-pop as a “machine,” which perpetuate the dehumanizing viewpoints about the artists in the Korean idol industry. Have we or can we ever think of provincializing American pop as “A-pop” and discussing the “dark sides” of A-pop or the “A-pop Machine”?