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June 28, 2022

Domestic and Global Political Impacts of K-Pop: BoA, BTS, and Beyond

By Jason Bartlett

K-Pop idols and their music have positively contributed to South Korean diplomacy, economy, human rights movements, and the country’s global status for decades, especially during times of high political tension.

As a middle-power country, Seoul often relies on non-coercive diplomatic tools to strengthen its political position in the world, rather than using military or coercive economic power. Korean entertainment, in particular K-Pop, has provided a unique opportunity for Seoul to improve its global standing through appeal and attraction, known as “soft power.” After the fall of authoritarianism in South Korea in the late 1990s, which previously censored domestic and foreign media outlets, Korean music, film, and television programs began to circulate throughout Asia. As a result, Korean pop culture became accessible to a global audience for the first time, making way for the Korean Wave, also known as “Hallyu.” Overseas K-Pop fans have directly contributed to the growth of the South Korean economy, as the foreign market for South Korean music and pop culture roughly doubled from $5.7 billion in 2015 to $10 billion in 2019. However, K-Pop also has had a profound impact on domestic and foreign politics, demonstrating its importance for South Korean diplomacy.

K-Pop has had a profound impact on domestic and foreign politics, demonstrating its importance for South Korean diplomacy.

Since its founding in 2005, YouTube has provided an virtual window into Korean entertainment for viewers overseas, but the first ripples of the Korean Wave splashed on the shores of Japan several years earlier under the name Kwon Bo-ah (BoA). For 20 years, Korean singer and entertainer BoA has contributed to improving civil relations between the Korean and Japanese public through her music and appearances in Japanese radio and television.

Read the full article from The Diplomat.

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