South Korean group BTS became one of the most successful musical acts in the world over the past decade, and an international cultural phenomenon far beyond being the global face of K-pop. BTS is recognized and lauded as an exemplar of South Korean “soft power,” an important aspect of modern international relations and politics that emphasizes attraction and persuasion as a means to leverage influence, particularly through culture. The seven members of BTS are official cultural ambassadors for South Korea itself, and the group’s popularity over the past decade has boosted tourism and interest in the Korean language and popular culture more widely, as well as being a significant economic driver in their home country. Examining the case of BTS through the lens of soft power provides insights into the role of popular music in 21st-century global politics.
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