Boy-band BTS gets rich in Korea, but runs into trouble with China
by Francesco Kim

As of today, the band's shares are listed on the stock exchange earning record values: up to 305 dollars.  The band's first live streamed concert, after a four-month lockdown, had 990,000 visitors, earning 50 billion won (about 43.7 million US dollars).  The themes of their songs: dignity of life and hope.  Chinese internet users accuse them of overlooking the Korean war.

 


Seoul (AsiaNews) - The most famous boy band in the South Korean pop (K-pop) scene, BTS, have generated a media storm.  As of today, the company that manages their concerts and products, Big Hit Entertainment, is listed on the stock exchange and is selling its shares at dizzying prices, so as to immediately become the third highest listing in the history of the Seoul Stock Exchange.

The initial share price of 135,000 won (US $ 118) rose to 351,000 won (US $ 305), then fell during the day.  The total value of the company is now 11 trillion won (about 10 billion dollars), making the seven members of BTS millionaires, with 24 billion won each (about 21 million dollars).

Analysts are studying the phenomenon, attributing the success to Big Hit's ability to use youtube channels to convey BTS music at a time when live concerts cannot be held due to the pandemic.  Last weekend, their first live streamed concert, after four months, drew 990,000 visitors, earning 50 billion won (about 43.7 million US dollars).

Some are looking to this future with fear.  The seven youths of BTS (short for "Bangtan Sonyeondan", which translated means "the boy scouts who resist bullets"), were born between 1992 and 1997. This means that in the coming months, one by one, they could be called to military service, which in Korea is compulsory, and which lasts from 18 to 21 months, breaking up the band.  A Democratic Party MP suggested that BTS members perform an alternative service, saving their contribution to the South Korean economy, estimated at 60 trillion won (52.3 billion US dollars) for the next 10 years.

For many Koreans, the global success of BTS is a source of national pride.  "The themes of their songs - says a young man from Daejeon - focus on the dignity of life and hope: very different from those of other pop singers, who only talk about money, pleasure and power".

At the very beginning of the week, however, BTS ran into diplomatic problems.

The Korea Society, which annually awards South Korean personalities who support the friendship between the United States and Korea, awarded the group the James A. Van Fleet Award (named after the US general who led US and UN forces in the Korean War  ).  One of the singers of BTS, RM, commented on the award recalling "the painful history that our two nations share and the sacrifices of countless men and women".  The allusion to the Korean War (1951-1953) did not appeal to Chinese internet users who complained of them overlooking the many Chinese fallen in that war.  Some comments condemned BTS for "insulting China";  others more vulgarly advise them: "If you want to make money in China, you have to respect your Chinese fans".

In China, which is experiencing a moment of acute nationalism, also propelled by the leadership, the Korean War is seen as a war of aggression by the United States and not as the response to Kim Il Sung's invasion of the South, which took place on 25 June  1950.

Fears that the BTS commentary will cause a new boycott of Korean products, as occurred in 2017, has led some digital platforms to eliminate advertising for South Korean products such as Hyunday, Samsung and Fila.

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