Is political voice one of their selling points?
Korean idols enjoy high social status


Last year, the South Korean male idol group “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” (BTS) ranked top in the U.S. Billboard 200 for their album “LOVE YOURSELF”, the first feat attained by Asian artists. One of reasons for their global hit can be the powerful political messages the group has been sending out to society. This is in contrast with Japan where people generally feel uncomfortable about the relationship between idols and politics.

One of their political messages concerns homosexuality. RM, the leader of BTS, drew public attention when he published a comment on Twitter last year, recommending “Strawberries and Cigarettes”, a song by South African-born Australian singer Troye Sivan who has pronounced himself to be a homosexual. This is the theme song of campus romance drama “Love Simon” featuring a young gay student.

Discrimination against sexual minorities is considered serious in Korea. Britain’s BBC reported in 2017 that a Korean military court gave an army solider a six-month prison sentence for having sex with another male soldier, although he argued it was done by mutual consent. By intentionally referring to what is seen as a taboo in Korea, BTS seems to have won the heart of youngsters who are keen to have diverse values.

Korean idols’ involvement in politics is not limited to their oral messages. Last April, Korean female idol group “Red Velvet” visited North Korea as a member of an art troupe and gave a solo performance at a theater in capital Pyongyang. After the show, the girls were granted an audience by North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un. He had smilingly clapped his hands while watching their stage. After the performance, Kim shook hands with each of the Red Velvets and reportedly told them: “It was so impressive to see my country’s people filled with a deep understanding of the public art of the South that I couldn’t help being moved.” The Korean idols seemed to have played a part in promoting North-South reconciliation.

By the way, is there any difference in consciousness about idols between Koreans and Japanese? Hakumon Herald polled 25 Japanese students and 13 Korean students who learn at Chuo University on (1) social status of idols, (2) what is expected of idols and (3) what idols should not be allowed to do. With regard to social status, 12% of the Japanese students replied it is “very high”, with 32% choosing “high”, 44% “normal” and 12% “low”. On the other hand, “very high” was the reply from 15.4% of the Korean students, followed by “high” with 69.2% and “normal” with 15.4%. None of them chose “low”. As for unacceptable activities by idols, 24% of the Japanese students mentioned ‘”actor or actress”, 16% “appearance in variety shows”, 20% “appearance in gravure photo album” and 40% “marriage”. “Actor or actress” was mentioned by 30% of the Korean students, with 70% selecting “gravure photo album”. “Appearance in variety shows” and “marriage” were not chosen. As to what is expected of idols, the Japanese students mentioned “good looks,” “talent for singing and dancing” and “affableness” while the Korean students cited, in addition to “good looks” and “affableness”, “ability to appeal their own attractiveness” and “ability to express themselves in song and dance”.

BTS’s appearance in TV Asahi’s music program was hastily suspended last November because one of its members wore a T-shirt affirming the atomic bombing. Is the recent deterioration of Japan-Korea relations related to Korean idols who tend to make political remarks their selling point?

 (Written by: Yoshikazu Kazamoto)

韓国の男性アイドル・グループ「防弾少年団」(BTS)のアルバム「LOVE YOURSELF」が昨年、アメリカの「ビルボードチャート200」で、アジア圏で初めて1位を獲得した。この世界的ヒットの理由の1つに、彼らが力強く社会に対して、政治的メッセージを発信してきたという背景がある。アイドルと政治の関係に違和感を持つものが少なくない日本とは対照的だ。

彼らの訴えの例として、同性愛に関するものがある。昨年、BTSリーダーのRMはツイッター上で、南アフリカ出身、オーストラリア育ちで同性愛を公表しているミュージシャン、トロイ・シヴァンの「Strawberries and Cigarettes」を推薦するツイートを投稿し、話題を呼んだ。この曲は、ゲイの青年が主人公の学園ラブストーリー映画「ラブ、サイモン」の主題歌でもある。



ところで、アイドルに関して韓国と日本では意識に違いはあるのだろうか。 記者はこのほど、中央大学の日本人学生25人と韓国からの留学生13人に、アイドルの①社会的な地位②期待されるもの③許容されない活動の3点について、アンケートを取ってみた。まず、アイドルの社会的地位に関して、日本人は12%が「とても高い」、32%が「高い」、44%が「普通」12%が「低い」と答えた。これに対して韓国人は15.4%が「とても高い」、69.2%が「高い」、15.4%が「普通」と回答。低いと答えたものはいなかった。許容されない活動について、日本人は、24%が「女優業・俳優業」、16%が「バラエティ番組への出演」、20%が「グラビア写真集発刊」、40%が「結婚」を選択。韓国人の場合、30%が「女優業・俳優業」、70%が「グラビア写真集発刊」を選び、「バラエティ番組への出演」「結婚」は選ばれなかった。アイドルに期待されるものとして、日本人は「容姿の良さ」「歌や踊りの才能」「愛想の良さ」などを挙げ、韓国人は、「容姿の良さ」、「愛想の良さが」に加え、「自分の魅力をアピールする能力」「自分を歌や踊りで表現できる能力」を挙げた。






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