Based on the transcript, it seems the “Is BTS K-pop or not” argument firstly and mostly came from the fans’ sincerity to protect the group from a xenophobic Western media and general public. But I do not believe that is the best strategy, nor the right thing to do. BTS certainly does not have to become a hero and be responsible for all of the Western-originated colonialism and racial stereotypes, but intentionally separating BTS from K-pop is just a rhetorical ploy to detour the targeted racism, and also far from reality. Instead, recognizing BTS’s achievements of going beyond the boundary of K-pop while they still absorb and appreciate some of the crucial aspects of K-pop would be a more interesting topic to study.
It will be also important to identify BTS’s coordinates in Korean and Western music industries. I think their struggle for recognition of their authenticity plays differently in each field. In my opinion, BTS’s entire career is a living example of the “authenticity vs. commercialism” debate. The intersectional complexity makes it appear to be harder to dissect, but I am hopeful that attempts like the R3 project would make the problem more approachable.