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Members of the South Korean pop group BTS attend a meeting at U.N. headquarters in 2018 Members of the Korean K-pop group BTS attend a meeting during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 24, 2018 (AP photo by Craig Ruttle).

Translating K-Pop’s Success Into South Korean Soft Power

Friday, March 19, 2021

When BTS performed its smash hit “Dynamite” for the first time at MTV’s Video Music Awards in August, the seven-member South Korean pop group was unable to fly to New York City for the ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, it intended to film its part of the show outdoors, to “show everyone the scenery in Seoul,” one of its vocalists, Jin, told Vogue. But summer rain got in the way of that plan, so it ended up recording its performance in front of giant green screens.

Seven months later, still unable to visit the U.S., the group finally realized its initial vision for showing off Seoul to an American audience—this time, at the Grammys, in what was the first solo performance by a K-pop group at the annual awards ceremony. Halfway through their prerecorded routine, BTS’ members emerged onto the spot-lit rooftop of the Parc1 skyscraper in downtown Seoul to dance amid the city lights, the Han River glinting in the background. Asked about their appearance at the Grammys by E! during a virtual red carpet interview, J-Hope, a rapper and the group’s lead dancer, said that the show was “a chance for us to show the world about Korean culture, and ourselves, and our music—so we’re really happy and we’re really proud.” ...

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