The book starts from the awareness that we need critical discourses on idol fandom. We need discourses about fandoms because they shape our perception of particular objects, determine evaluations, and influence behavior. Idol fandoms are shrouded in prejudices that envisage troops of female fans who are hell-bent on defending their male star, female fans who are crazily obsessed with a male star, and cult-like hordes of young and immature girls. While the history of idol fandoms is already over 20 years old, and despite the progressed maturity and transformation of fandom culture, the prejudices remain and stem largely from society’s rigid views on women, teenagers, and consumer culture. Hopefully, this book’s careful observations of the dynamics inside the fandom will underline that it’s time to remove the shallow stigmas that were attached to idol fandoms, and invite insightful criticism and assessment by reasoning. Lastly, to the fans who accepted me—an Aca-Fan—as a member of the fervent and dynamic world of ARMY, I send my gratitude in the words of cultural studies scholar Henry Jenkins:
And most of what I am writing about here I know from the inside out.
Currently teaching film at Chung-Ang University, she is a member of the Film Subcommittee for the Korea Media Rating Board. She received a Bachelor of Science at the Ewha Woman’s University, a Master of Fine Arts with a focus on Filmmaking at CalArts, and a PhD in Film Studies with a focus on Film Theory at the Graduate School for Art & Technology at Chung-Ang University.
She was a visiting professor at the Graduate School of Cinematic Content at Dankook University, full lecturer in the multimedia department at Hannam University, and lecturer at Yonsei University. Her PhD thesis examined “Disaster and Film: The Emotional Structure of Disaster in 21st Century Film” (2015). Her research interests are posthumanism, relations between visual culture and modernity, and popular culture in new media. While researching symptoms of disaster linked to transglobal capitalism, she stumbled upon the music of BTS, their worldview, and their relationship to ARMYs. After discovering therein an unexpected hope for the world, she is still going through an inner identity crisis. Research papers include (translated titles): “The Present of Korean Fantasy TV Series: Tracing the Motifs of the Superhuman and Time Slips” (2017), “Traversing the World of Serial Catastrophe: The Appearance of Apocalyptic Postmodern Representation” (2017), “The Politics of Hollywood’s Conspiracy Films in the Post-Capitalist Era” (2014), and more.
Born in Korea in 1983, she emigrated to Germany in 1984. Her personal background made her sensitive to intercultural communication. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Central Saint Martins in London, a Master of International Studies in European Studies at the Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul National University, and a PhD in Political Science at the Graduate School of East Asian Studies at the Free University Berlin with a thesis titled “Measuring Frames: Discursive Institutions in Polarized Politics” (2016). Currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Web Science and Technologies at the University of Koblenz, she works on social and political polarization, text analysis, online misinformation, and democracy in digital society, and engages in increasing interdisciplinary research.
Previously, she worked as External Affairs officer at the Korea Institute for Public Finance and Taxation, and as postdoctoral researcher at the Korean Studies department of the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (Paris) followed by the Computational Social Science department of GESIS (Cologne).
While living in Paris in early 2017, she came across the “Blood Sweat & Tears” music video on YouTube. Captivated by an undefinable difference that she couldn’t pinpoint, she just wanted to look up their names, fell into the rabbit hole, and came out an ARMY.
She received her BA from the School of Communication at Northwestern University, and her MA in Interpretation and Translation from the Graduate School of International Studies at Chung Ang University. Currently, she works as a professional interpreter and translator.
01 Started from the Bottom of K-pop
Idols and Their Fandom as Political Symbols
Out of a Thorny Path
02 Voting Culture
The Dark Side of K-pop Voting Culture
03 ARMY, the Best Promoter
ARMY’s Strength Made the Band
You Stream? We Buy!
ARMY Invasion of US Radio
“It’s BTSpop, not K-pop”
04 Fandom of diversity
The Visibility of Middle-aged and Male Fans
The LGBTQ Community
Bond between Minorities
Learning about Blackness
Appealing to Intellectuals
05 Beyond the Language Barrier
Shaking up Western-centric Language Hierarchies
ARMY Hangul Day
Citi Field Concert Review by a Visually Impaired Girl
BTS Singing in Korean
06 The Social Expansion of Fandom Culture
The Growth Narrative that Moves ARMYs
ARMY are the Faces of BTS: Fandom Campaigns
07 The Cultural Politics of Fandom
Fandom and Misogyny
Racism in the Fandom
The Ecosphere of K-pop Fandoms and ARMY
Fandom: A New Force in the Music Industry
ARMY as Citizens of the Neo-liberal Era
ARMY is the wings of BTS. This fandom, which was even addressed by the Korean President in his congratulatory message, is a cultural agent and the most powerful consumer base in history. This book comprehensively analyzes ARMY for those who are curious about who they are, what they do, and how. By recording the activities of ARMYs that turned the Korean idol group BTS into artists with the largest global influence in social and cultural terms, this book offers detailed insight to all readers who wish to understand ARMY as well as the rapidly shifting present times.
– Jeeyoung Lee, Visiting Professor at Daeyang Humanity College, Sejong University, author of the book “BTS Art Revolution”
Whenever BTS achieves amazing records and adorns the news, people ask: What in the world is different about BTS? If I had to pick only one answer to this question, I would have to mention BTS’ fandom ARMY without a doubt. ARMY keeps breaking one prejudice about idol fandoms after another, and is in the course of creating an entirely new fandom culture. This book is a serious yet loving critique about ARMY. The author, who is a cultural scholar as well as a great admirer of BTS, is meticulous and transparent in showing us the process of how BTS and ARMY influence each other, grow together, and evolve side by side. This process is sometimes surprising, even touching.
-Chang-nam Kim, Professor of Journalism and Media/ Graduate School of Cultural Studies, SungKongHoe University, Jury Chair of the Korean Music Awards