BTS and their Influence Beyond Music: Breaking down the Power of Social Media in Politics

9 mins read

In a jungle of entertainment giants who had been running the industry for so many years, BTS who started from a small independent record label managed to be one of South Korea’s top groups. While their unique music and creativity had been the foundation of their success, their fame undoubtedly was also a product of their strong and united social media presence. Their power has even influenced US Politics more than people think. 

In 2017, BTS with the power of their fandom ARMY achieved a feat first for a South Korean boy band. The seven member group bagged the Billboard Music Awards Top Social Artist ending Justin Bieber’s streak which started in 2011. The Top Social Artist is one of the two fan-voted categories awarded based on major fan interactions with music counting streaming, social engagement, and global online voting results. 

The seven member act who debuted in 2013 had over 300 million tweets under their hashtag #BTSBBMA that proved not only their growing influence but also the cyclonal force of their fans to propel them beyond the boundaries of fame and records, putting their name on the short list of legends.

Just last October 14, the group received their fourth consecutive Top Social Artist Award. In a video acceptance speech, J-Hope thanked ARMYs for the award. RM, leader of the group, added, “We think that this award is a living proof that no matter where we are, the ARMY, BTS stay so close connected as always.”

The group’s impact can not only be seen in sold out concert venues and record-breaking album sales. With over 30.9 million followers on twitter and 41 million subscribers on YouTube, their message definitely carries weight and considerable influence even in the US political arena. 

This did not come as surprising as BTS visibly expressed their stance against racism. In a tweet last June, the group condemned violence and racial discrimination stated in both Korean and English supported with the Black Lives Matter hashtag. They also donated $1 million dollars in support of the movement. 

While the boys do not identify as political activists despite linking themselves to a political movement, their message supporting human rights and anti-racism efforts resounded crystal clear. “You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together.” 

The Black Lives Matter (BLM), a political and social movement calling for the stop of racially-motivated violence against Black people, which returned to national and international headlines after the death of George Floyd has been a very important and sensitive issue surrounding US politics especially affecting the US Presidential Elections earlier this month. 

In addition to that, ARMY alongside big powerful KPop fandoms such as EXO-Ls, Blinks, and ONCEs also took down the White Lives Matter trended by white supremacists by tweeting it with unrelated KPop gifs and photos and drowning the original intention and message of the hashtag. 

The amount of tweets amassed to trend and drown the hashtag had been tremendous yet again proving the power of fandoms in terms of social media engagement. 

They also did the same spamming technique with #QAnon, a far right conspiracy theory, which promotes that an alleged cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles are running a global child sex-trafficking ring. This year, followers of QAnon have trended #SaveTheChildren in an attempt to bring attention to their cause. Although data from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children conflict the statement with statistics showing that less than 1% of abducted children by non-family members. 

KPop fandoms also joined in protecting Black Lives Matter protests this past summer by downloading the iWatch Dallas app used for people to report illegal activities of protestors by spamming it with KPop content until the app encountered “technical difficulties”. 

During the Election campaign, they also teamed up with several social media users in falsely reserving tickets for Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma in late June. Trump who had been a prominent figure of racist policies had been targeted by trolls to keep a number of his supporters from attending the rally. According to NBC News, the effort was successful with the rally ending up having many empty seats which reportedly made Trump “furious”. 

In another account, Marilyn Strickland, the recently elected representative for Washington’s 10th district was spotted wearing a BTS mask in a video uploaded by Mondaire Jones, U.S. Representative-elect for New York’s 17th congressional district, at the Freshman Orientation for the 117th Congress. 

Strickland is of Korean and African-American descent and her heritage is a historic first for Congress. She is also one of three Korean-American women (Young Kim and Michelle Park Steel both Republicans) who was voted for a seat in Congress. 

NASA, an independent agency of the U.S. federal government responsible for the civilian space program, aeronautics, and space research, has also expressed love for the group in a tweet last 2019 wherein it added BTS songs “Mikrokosmos”, “Moonchild”, and “134340” in their lunar journey playlist set in 2024. They also engaged in a tweet by a fan last June. 

User @JinMoonphany tweeted NASA on June 21 saying, “Yeah I am postin[g] a lot about Jin at the moment because I want @NASA to give him the moon. But I swear I’m [a] hard OT7 stan. I love them all so much. They are literally the reason why I even smile.” To which NASA replied 3 days later, “The Moon already belongs to everybody, even Seokjin.”

NASA’s reply garnered over 79,000 retweets and 136,000 likes. 

In the digital age, social media and politics are intertwined. Platforms such as facebook, instagram, twitter and YouTube have evolved from just story-sharing to powerful tools. Especially with politics, these social media platforms act as a connection between the ruled and the governing body, providing space to share dissent, advocate changes, and actively participate in society. 

With more youth becoming more politically-engaged, social media also becomes more powerful. BTS with their large and loyal following on social media plays an important role and carries a heavy weight on their shoulders with the enormous influence they have especially with their music and its message. Actively talking not only about personal struggles but as well as issues in the society, they are bound to be “power players” in politics as well. 

As Suga once said in a poem in Run BTS Season 2, “We were only dreaming, but now we are the dream for someone. Life is full of choices and regrets. I’m scared and so are we.We dreamed of flying high up in the sky, but it’s too high and cold. It’s hard to catch our breath. The brighter the light is on us, the bigger the shadow. What a relief that we have seven members. What a relief that we have each other.” 

Thomas Lake

Resident tech nerd for the SF Times.