In one sense, the Hallyu phenomenon is a contemporary iteration of a long-standing nationalistic trend wherein Korea distinguishes its culture and traditions from that of others. In addition to overt governmental forms of soft power such as financial support and promulgation of K-Everything (pop music, dramas, food, cosmetics, etc.), more subtle instances of Korean iconography have had an equally powerful influence on introducing the nation and the world to its cultural commodities. This presentation investigates the ways in which BTS can be seen as a symbolic Korean boy band through their overt use of visual and aural cultural icons, particularly in the music video “Idol” as well as their display of Korean traditional clothing (hanbok) worn in videos, promotional materials, and the daily life of musicians.
Dr. Heather A. Willoughby is a Professor at the Graduate School of International Studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, Korea, where she teaches socio-cultural anthropology, East Asian studies and philosophy, ethnomusicology, cross cultural communication and gender courses. Recent research and publication projects combine the intersection of these diverse fields to focus on Korean culture, gender, and iconography in popular media.