Bong-Joon ho and BTS, both South Korea’s pride, why only one is taken seriously?

Bong Joon-ho at Golden Globes 2020(L) and BTS at Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve 2020(R) [Getty Images]

This year’s highlight was the South Korean film, Parasite, taking home four trophies at the 92nd Academy Awards, including best picture, best director, best original screenplay and best international feature film. Parasite became the first-ever foreign movie to win the best picture, which is astonishing, very well-deserved and saddening at the same time since it took the academy so long to acknowledge a foreign movie.

Even though Parasite is breaking barriers and paving the way for other foreign films, there are still a lot of incredible and Oscar-worthy movies from all around the world which remain disregarded solely because subtitles are a no-no for some people.

“Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” said Bong Joon-ho, who used a translator to deliver his acceptance speech mostly in Korean.

Hopefully, this conquest will open doors for other international movies to be more recognized.

Speaking of breaking barriers, let’s talk about BTS, which are defining “breaking barriers”. They had a considerable influence on pop culture and international music scene and their latest album, Map of The Soul: Persona was one of the bestselling albums in 2019 and broke several records even though the album was in Korean. Still, they were snubbed by The Grammys this year. Not only they weren’t nominated in any categories, but they also didn’t get a chance to have a solo performance. So why do western critics only take one of these artists seriously?

Both Korean virtuosos have undeniable talent and impact both artistically and on their country’s economy. BTS is estimated to have a $4.6 billion impact on South Korea’s economy annually and is as important as multinationals such as Samsung and Hyundai. Now the success of Parasite will also mark a new milestone for the export of K-movies.

The artists’ home country is not the only thing that’s equating them. BTS and Bong Joon-Ho have so much in common.

Both BTS and Bong are genre mixers; they’re continually exploring sociopolitical themes. For instance, BTS’ song spine breaker is about capitalism and class structures, while Bong has tackled similar conversations in feature works like 2013’s Snowpiercer (fun fact: the film is referenced in BTS’s spring day) and 2019’s Parasite. Plus, Bong’s films have always focused on underdogs, and there was a time when BTS’s RM, V, Jin, Jimin, Suga, Jungkook, and J-Hope were considered underdogs too.

While the critically-acclaimed director Bong Joon-ho is being praised for his art, the other Korean elite is being dismissed by Western critics.

There are specific reasons behind that. First, boybands are never taken seriously in general.

It’s not the first time boybands are being ridiculed and made fun of or simply considered “not-worthy” by both the general public and critics. Most critics don’t take boybands seriously, and so it’s not that difficult to guess how they feel about an Asian boyband who doesn’t sing in English. That’s where xenophobia also comes into the picture. Another point worth mentioning is that BTS are younger and, of course, considered good looking, so a lot of people assume their fanbase are there for their looks, not their talent or music, which can’t be true since they are not the only good looking K-pop group out there.

BTS showed their love and support for Bong Joon-ho in a tweet on Monday morning.

“Bong Joon-ho, I really really really really congratulate you,” the South Korean boy band captioned a pair of photos of the Korean filmmaker and cast winning and posing with their Oscars in a tweet. (Tweet was initially in Korean)

On the other side, before winning the Golden Globe for best motion picture-Foreign Language for Parasite, on a red carpet interview, he name-checked BTS.

“Although I’m here at the Golden Globes, BTS has 3,000 times the amount of power and influence that I have. I think Korea produces a lot of great artists cause we’re very emotionally dynamic people,” Bong Joon-ho said.

All the success by these marvelous artists is not going to erase xenophobia and prejudice in one night, but it unquestionably breaks barriers and paves the way for other foreign artists in the future to be recognized and definitely change public’s perception of international and especially Asian artists.

Romina Amou Zadeh
Written by
Romina Amou Zadeh

An aspiring entertainment journalist, animal lover and a music geek with a penchant for pop culture, fashion, travel, fitness and bubble tea.
She holds an Honours Bachelor's degree in English from the Azad University of Tehran-North and is currently studying Journalism New Media at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario.

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