Korean roots of “working abroad” behind the breakthrough of BTS What is the reason why entertainers “envy Japan”?


On September 20, the popular group BTS (Bangtan Boys) gave a speech at the UN General Assembly. Behind the fact that Korean culture is sweeping the world are immigrants, who became one of the ways of life after the Korean War, and fierce competition in their own countries. From the October 25, 2021 issue of AERA.

Working abroad has been a familiar world for Koreans.

The land of South Korea was abandoned during the Korean War (1950-53). By the end of the 1960s, South Korea’s per capita GDP (gross domestic product) was about one-fifth that of Japan. One of the ways that people who were forced to live in extreme poverty found was migrant labor and immigrants abroad.

In the Korean movie “Let’s meet in the international market” (2014), which depicts the turbulent period after the war, the hero goes to West Germany as a coal mine worker to earn his younger brother’s school funds. Most of the 104 passengers killed on board Korean Aircraft Flight 858, which was blown up by North Korean agents in November 1987, were migrant workers on their way back from the Middle East to their homeland.

And Korean veteran actor Youn Yuh Jung won this year’s Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the movie “Minari,” which depicts a family of Korean immigrants struggling in the 1980s in Arkansas, southern United States.

As of 2019, there are about 1.91 million Korean Americans living in the United States. It surpasses the number of Japanese Americans, which was about 1.41 million in the 2015 census. Compared to the Japanese descent, where immigrants flourished before the war, Koreans became free to immigrate from the 1960s to the 1970s. In addition to the difficulties in living, there was also political instability due to the military dictatorship of the Park Chung-hee administration. Many Koreans said they wanted to immigrate to the United States because they wanted to give their children a good education and work even if they had a hard time. The 1980s, which was the background of the movie, was a time when immigrants were flourishing, and even in the movie, there is an explanation that “30,000 people come in a year.”

Korean Americans in their thirties mentioned above said, “There are many enthusiastic ARMYs among Korean women around. If there are BTS performances or news, they are spread in English using Instagram and Twitter.” ..

The reason why English education is very enthusiastic in Korea is that “working abroad” is an option. The minimum TOEIC score required by Korean companies for applicants is 700 points. I was once told by a Korean university student that “If you want to join a good company, you need 900 points.” The Korean culture, which always keeps in mind the option of “working abroad,” supports the overseas expansion of Korean culture.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to become a global star. “BTS has been well on the way to the times of the world,” said the Korean entertainment correspondent. According to the reporter, Latin pop made a big leap in the US Billboard around 2017. BTS songs also incorporate Latin pop elements. BTS songs are sophisticated, to say the least, but a little difficult, but the successful adoption of the world favorite music stream has given us the opportunity to become a global star. Group BTS has also mastered social media. By posting photos taken by the members, we shortened the distance with the fans.

Then, will a star like BTS be born from Japan?

“Japan has a strong domestic market. All Korean entertainers are envious of Japan,” said the reporter.

However, according to the OECD, the real average annual income of Japanese people in 2020 will be $ 38,515 (about 4.5 million yen). It is less than the US $ 69,392 (about 7.8 million yen) and the South Korea’s $ 41,960 (about 4.7 million yen). Recently, there are many Japanese government officials who are pleased that their salary will increase if they are sent to an international organization.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in his statement of belief on October 8 that he would aim to “realize a new capitalism,” and said, “What is important is a virtuous cycle of growth and distribution.” However, some government officials are worried that “no country in the world has realized it. Isn’t it just an idea?” If Japan gets stuck economically, it could create a situation similar to South Korea in the 1980s, when immigration to the United States was booming. (Asahi Shimbun reporter, Yoshihiro Makino)