What Does K-pop Have to Do With U.S. Politics? Plenty

Real Clear Politics

June 26, 2020
BY FRANK AHRENS

Maybe the first time you heard of K-pop fans, or maybe even K-pop music, was in the wake of President Trump’s campaign rally last weekend in Tulsa, Okla. But it will not be the last.

TikTokkers came up with the idea of ordering thousands of tickets to Trump’s rally with no intention of showing up, in hopes of making the arena embarrassingly empty. Whether the TikTokkers or COVID-19 was the reason for low turnout is up for debate. What is clear, however, is that K-pop fans took the TikTokkers’ idea and signal-boosted it across social media with lightning speed and algorithm-savvy tactics. It was only the most recent of a number of social media disruptions caused by K-pop fans, which I believe will increase, especially as the presidential election draws closer.

Loosely, K-pop is the term given to pop music created by artists from South Korea, typically by what are erroneously referred to as boy bands and girl bands. (These are grown men and women.) The songs’ lyrics are mostly in Korean with some English words. But that has proven no inhibitor to the genre’s worldwide growth. The beats and grooves are universally appealing, the artists’ choreography is spellbinding, and the artists themselves, by and large, tend to project an agreeable, even wholesome persona and are increasingly associated with charitable causes. Like any musical genre, the songs cover the range of emotions, but much of the music is positive and affirming. This is music you can dance to AND feel good about supporting, as opposed to wallowing in whiny emo rock or bloodying your head with nihilistic metal.

But you don’t really need to know about K-pop music. It’s the K-pop fans you need to worry about. If you’re involved in politics, government, advocacy or communications and you don’t know about K-pop fans, then you’re engaging in professional malpractice.

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