Saturday, May 25, 2024

Rock goes pop

Although English is nowhere near a second language in South Korea, massively popular K-pop band BTS records parts of their songs in English and, boy, has it paid off. The seven-member boy band is estimated to be worth in the region of US$3.6 billion. That’s right: we’re talking billions. They’ve raked it in from stadium tours, album sales and a collaboration with fast-food chain McDonalds, being brand ambassadors for Louis Vuitton and commercials for the likes of Samsung.

Twenty-six-year-old Kim Nam-joon, aka RM (Real Me and, previously, Rap Monster), is the leader of the band. As he’s the only BTS member fluent in English, he’s also the band’s spokesperson. While English is taught in some of the primary-school years in Korea, but not in Grades 1 and 2 (the government made this decree in 2018, as it worried learning English at a young age would affect children’s ability to learn Korean), only about 43% of the population can speak it. How then did RM get to be so good at speaking colloquial English? Friends. No, not his friends. We’re talking the 1990s TV sitcom. Oh, OK, he also spent a few months in New Zealand when he was 12.

He hasn’t always felt so confident in his language skills. “I had to do a short interview with, I think, Reuters, from France,” he says. “I was so nervous, I practised memorising three sentences for two hours.”

The band is huge among the tweenage population and if you have one in the house, brace yourself for 21 May, when BTS drop their second only-English single, ‘Butter’. It seems K-pop is spreading its love – and popularity – around the world. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Liz Granirer
Liz Granirer
Liz has been a journalist for many years. She is currently editor of EL Gazette and has previously edited the magazines Young Performer, StepForward and Accounting Technician; been deputy editor on Right Start magazine; chief sub editor on Country Homes & Interiors; and sub editor on easyJet Traveller, Lonely Planet and Family Traveller magazines, along with a number of others.
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