International relations graduate
Girls' Generation during their 'Phantasia' tour in Seoul in November 2015. (facebook.com/girlsgeneration/File)
April 27 marked the first meeting of South Korean president Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on South Korean soil for the Inter-Korea Summit. After the signing of an armistice agreement over 60 years ago, the meeting concluded on a hopeful note for the future of the Korean people: the end of the Korean War.
As the world delighted in this historic moment, young K-pop fans around the globe could not hide their pure joy over the peace process. These members of the younger generation, who pay little attention to international affairs, started to take notice. Their sole reason for caring: their idols.
With a peaceful end in sight, young K-Pop fans are cheering on the news. Social media platforms have begun filling up with their hopes and concerns, creating a whole new picture of K-pop fans, who often populate their social media pages with news and gossip about their idols.
K-Pop fans on Instagram started to update their stories with screenshots from news outlets or pictures of Moon and Kim shaking hands in Panmunjom, adding emojis and delighted comments.
Twitter users also participated in the hype. K-pop fans were busy retweeting and responding to news about the summit. Korean entertainment media certainly helped spread the news to K-pop fans.
But for these K-pop fans, their thoughts were not on the peace process alone. The most common comments written by K-pop fans expressed their hopes for an end to military conscription for their male idols.
This might seem trivial for people outside the K-Pop circle, but K-pop fans care deeply about their idols entering military service.
According to data collected by Maur-Anne Griffonnet-Barge in 2016, K-pop fans aged 19 or younger constitute almost 50 percent of the whole community. With most being female, this shows the reason behind the huge number of comments about military conscription.
Male K-pop idols are not exempt from military conscription, and not being able to see their favorite performers on the stage for two years is a hard reality for many K-pop fans.
Though the hype around the peace process disappeared as fast as it appeared, it has shown that South Korean diplomacy through entertainment has been successful. The “Korean cultural wave” has been a global phenomenon since the early 21st century.
Since then, Korean dramas and Korean idols have attracted the attention of people across the globe, alongside Japanese and Chinese dramas. But lately, the Korean wave has gained added attention thanks to idols like Bigbang, BTS, EXO, Girls’ Generation, and many more. This asset has been used well by the South Korean government to conduct soft diplomacy all over the world, with North Korea no exception.
Not so long ago, South Korean idols went to North Korea to perform for the North Korean people including Kim Jong-un. Red Velvet and Girls’ Generation’s Seohyun were among the team who went to participate.
This concert was not the first in North Korea, but was deemed a successful example of diplomacy and gave a strong signal that the summit between the two leaders could change the fate of the Korean Peninsula.
As the number of K-pop fans has grown, it has contributed to the massive support for ending the conflict, not only among Korean citizens but also K-pop fans around the world.
International politics is always a hard, boring subject to talk about unless you are student of political science. Getting members of the young generations nowadays to scroll through news on international politics, or even just take a glance, takes a lot of effort.
We cannot deny that K-pop has helped the young generation care more about what is happening on the other side of the world.
I don't mean to sound overly optimistic about the prospects of younger generations taking a deeper interest in international politics, but this sure is a good start. (mut)
The writer is an international relations graduate, has deep interest in international politics and security issues, and spends her spare time adoring the life of Jacqueline Kennedy while listening to K-pop.
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