[BTS] ARMY, those who make themselves shine with their boundless passion
[BTS] ARMY, those who make themselves shine with their boundless passion
  • Jun K
  • 승인 2021.11.01 00:42
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Interview wit Janice Park(Ringling College of Art and Design. Illustration Major ‘24)
Illustration / Janice Park
ⓒIllustration / Janice Park
ⓒIllustration / Janice Park
ⓒIllustration / Janice Park

  BTS is already a worldwide known group. There are only people that know more or less about BTS, but there is no one that does not know anything about them. Their cultural influence goes beyond the power of business, education, and politics, so you cannot help but call them legendary. Alongside BTS, there is ARMY. ARMY is different from the stereotypical fans that we usually imagine. They rather have a unique type of fan culture, where they learn from BTS’ messages, apply the lessons to their personal lives, and mature along with them. They differ from any other fans we have seen before. They are probably the reason why BTS has the strength to continue being BTS themselves. This November, BTS concert is held at SoFi Stadium in almost two years. It will be performed on November 27th, 28th, December 1st and 2nd, under the name of ‘Permission To Dance On Stage – LA’. With this in mind, I brought an ARMY who fits such a description with this edition. 

ⓒIllustration / Janice Park
ⓒIllustration / Janice Park

  Last year, she started online classes at home for an art school without a proper orientation or entrance ceremony. Starting this school year, she started to have in-person classes, so she has a busy college life adjusting to a new environment while handling numerous assignments. She was surprised by the sudden request for an interview, but with a single mention of BTS, she was quick to lend me some of her time.

  Some estimate that the number of ARMYs is about 10 million, and others estimate there to be around 5 million. How many ARMYs do you think there are?

  I don’t think anyone has an accurate number of how many ARMYs are in the world! There are many “unofficial” ARMYs because they didn’t purchase the membership, but they love and support BTS just as equally! Of course, people can give an estimate, which is probably about 40 million fans. Honestly, I would like to say that everyone has been an ARMY at least once, whether it is a short moment or a continuous deed, right? 

  Is there a way to prove that you are an ARMY? What is the method or procedure to confirm that you are an ARMY?

  There is! Through an app called Weverse. you can check your membership status. If you pay for the membership kit, you have a physical card as well! You have to pay for the membership fee, which gives many benefits, such as concert ticketing earlier, membership kits, exclusive content, and coupons. This lasts for one year until you have to renew your membership again. You can also identify ARMY through merchandise as well! BT21 is very popular as well as fan-made items. 

  How old are you now and what do you do?

  I am 19, and I am a 2nd-year college student studying illustration at Ringling College of Art and Design. 

  When and how did you first get to know BTS?

  I first learned about them actually when they debuted. I coincidentally found them on Youtube. I clearly remember watching No More Dream on 1theK’s Youtube channel. 

  What was your first impression, and what made you become a fan?

  Right off the bat, I was very interested. I had a few favorite songs from the first two albums, but I didn’t consider myself a fan of them yet. I truly started to be their fan when their 2nd mini-album 《Skool Luv Affair》 came out, realizing that they can pull off various concepts well. In that album, they had such contrasting songs, from BOY IN LUV, Tomorrow, and Just One Day. Even with these different styles of songs, they were all performed perfectly, and the members changed their tone and style to fit that song. I was amazed how they could change their techniques to fit whatever style of song they had.  

  Are there any ARMYs among your American friends?

  Yes, I do! Despite my shy personality back in the day, I showed all of my American friends BTS music videos. One of my friends is a dance major, so she always appreciates BTS’ dances. She loves how the choreography and concepts go so well with the songs. She now uses their songs as warm-up songs for her dance classes! Another friend actually learned Korean because of BTS! Back in the earlier days, English subtitles were very slow. She decided she wanted to understand BTS without translations, so she learned Korean! It still amazes me how motivated she was to learn Korean for BTS. I honestly think she is better than me in Korean now.

  Why did they fall in love with BTS in the first place, and why do they still love them? And what do you think the difference is between BTS and other currently active American singers?

  People first fall for BTS due to their performance and their great songs. The next thing you know, you fall in love with the members themselves, and how amazing and inspirational people they are. They are so thankful to ARMY, and they constantly communicate with them through Weverse, Twitter, VLives, and etc. Fans from the earlier days are especially more appreciative of them because we know they are from a very small company. Knowing how much they have grown over time and being a part of that process lets the fans become more attached to them. 

  Not all Pop artists do this, but a generic difference is that they tend to focus on what the general public wants to hear. Even if the beat and rhythm are great, the lyrics often are less relatable. BTS focuses very much on what they want to tell others. They put much thought into their lyrics, and they use it as a source to tell listeners what they find important: mental health, self-love, social issues, etc. Because they communicate to us their own stories and how they want to help us with their thoughts, I feel as if people connect to them even more. 

  What are your thoughts on the above question?

  I definitely agree. I fell in love with their music discography because of how versatile it is and the various genres. They always surprise listeners with their unique concepts and lyrics along with their amazing voice. All 7 members are greatly talented and have their own colors, and it’s always fun to see the difference when they are together as a group and when they perform solo.

  As time went by, I admired their humility, humbleness, and their humorous characters. They are so appreciative, and they seem genuine with everything they do. I’ve seen so many artists take their fans for granted as their fame rises, but I’ve never seen such behavior from BTS. They’ve had their mistakes and accidents, but they’ve acknowledged them and educated themselves from them. It’s so refreshing to see that they aren’t trying to cover such issues with excuses, but they are rather showing they are human as well. 

  You must have been to a concert. How was the atmosphere and response at that time?

  I’ve been to both the ‘The Red Bullet’(2015) and ‘Love Yourself’(2018) concerts! First of all, the ticketing process made me so nervous. It was unreal how fast the tickets were gone. Once I got to the concert venue, it was just a change of atmosphere. It seemed like there were no such things as extroverts and introverts because nobody was silent. I loved how many people I saw who had the same love for BTS as I did in one place. Even waiting for the concert was fun, as ARMY interacted with each other. There were fanarts being given, banners and merch being handed out, photocards being traded. Everyone was talking about how excited they were. 

  When I first saw BTS, I was amazed. After liking them for so long, I finally got to see them in front. It was truly breathtaking, hearing them sing live and dancing in front of me. Even the last row of the concert hall could feel how hard they worked from their stage presence. Honestly, celebrities never felt real to me, somewhat resembling a work of fiction. Once I saw them right in front of me, I realized how they were not just people on TV, and I fell for them even more. Their presence alone brightened up the stage, and it was amazing to see the ARMY bomb lightstick glowing up the crowd. 

  When I first went to the concert venue, I did not expect to see more foreigners than Koreans. It was surprising because as I talked to more people at the concert, I realized that they weren’t all from Texas! There were people from other states, countries, and even Korea coming in by car or plane. It was my first time being in such a setting, so I was shocked when the non-Koreans were singing along with BTS in Korean. Also, it was admiring to see all the fans standing up for the whole concert. Nobody was tired and kept the energy flowing throughout the whole concert because the sight in front of them was something we would keep in our hearts forever. 

  Now, as you said, I heard it is extremely difficult to buy concert tickets. How did you get them?

  Basically, it’s a feisty time competition on the official ticket website. It’s as if they all sell within 5 minutes. Right when the clock changes to the time of the sale, you have to immediately refresh your page. I use every device in the household: laptops, iPad, phones, and even my 7-year-old iPod touch. If I do this, at least one device will have better seating than the other. To be honest, I even left school early to buy concert tickets. The planned ‘BTS Map of the Soul Tour 2020’ in Dallas was something my whole family was looking forward to. Because of Covid-19, the event that was supposed to happen this past May was canceled. It’s a shame that the concert was canceled because I got some nice seats for my family. 

  As a Korean-American, I am sure there are different aspects that you appreciate or consider more important than from an American fan. In what ways do you think you are different?

  Of course, every person listens to the beat and the type of song it is. Other than that, when I show my American friends BTS music videos, their focus is mainly on the visual aspects of it: colors, outfits, atmosphere, and dance. If I watch with my Korean friends, one of the first things they notice is the lyrics. Since Koreans know what they are saying, they focus on that more so than foreign ARMY. As a Korean-American, it’s fun seeing conversations go back and forth when a new song comes out. The first comments to come up on Korean music sites are about how the lyrics are relatable and clever while Youtube’s comments are filled with the visual appearance of the members and the music video itself. 

  Did BTS have any influence on you or your other friends when they were growing up? Also, do you think it has influenced your image of Korea? If so, how did it affect you?

  Literally, I see a member of BTS every day when I eat a Lemona. Truly, BTS can be considered the face of Korea right now, as they are everywhere: billboards, posters, packaging, etc. They’re recognized worldwide as the K-Pop stars who made it! From the Grammys, Billboard, collaborations with top Pop artists, Time Magazine, American talk shows, and all the way to the U.N. General Assembly meeting! Because of BTS, there has been an increase in interest in Korean culture. Whether it is food, landmarks, language, dramas, or other Korean artists, BTS is considered one of the main reasons why Korean culture expanded out into the whole world recently. I love how they continuously showcase their Korean roots by using traditional Korean outfits and instruments in their works despite having huge fame outside of Korea. 

  Of course, the Korean culture is something they emphasize, but mental health, vaccinations, climate change, volunteerism, social issues, and so much more are mentioned in their speeches and song lyrics. With their help in addressing these topics, there are fans that learn more about it and are aware of what is happening in the world. BTS uses their platform with a good intention, better-improving current issues by informing their fans and telling them how they can help as well. I truly praise them for being a leader in addressing these topics.

  Do you believe BTS influences people? 

  Yes, I do!

  As you mentioned, they greatly influence others. So, what kind of influence do they have, and how do you see this impact?

  As a Korean-American, It’s fascinating to see how society is changing to be more open to cultures outside of their own. Especially in my earlier days living in America, I was identified as “the Asian” in my school. Kids from my school would make fun of my appearance and comment rudely about Korean culture. It was common for every Asian to be stereotyped and looked down upon in American TV shows and society. With Korean artists such as BTS and Korean dramas rising to fame these days, people want to learn about Korean culture! I’m so proud to see BTS and other Koreans being acknowledged in American society these recent years. 

  Also, I am appreciative of their use of lyrics to address topics that aren’t common. Back in the day, it was not often when you found Korean celebrities talking about mental health. It was seen as not standard. I believe that BTS was one of the few celebrities in this generation to open that conversation up, letting other artists also follow their lead to become more open about it as well. Not only that, their efforts to help others through donations, sponsorships, and words are inspiring and so effective.

  Is there anything you would like to say to BTS or ARMYs?

  To BTS, thank you for helping me realize that not everything is supposed to be a perfect story. It’s okay to have imperfections, and I can proudly tell others about them. There’s no need to be ashamed of my past or my mistakes. As a person who is soon turning into an adult, I sincerely thank BTS for teaching me how to live my youth, how to address specific situations in life, and how to love myself and others. Self-love has been hard, but your constant efforts and motivation have helped me understand myself better. 

  Also as an art major, I appreciate how the staff working behind the scenes create beautiful and creative visuals for BTS. It’s wonderful to see the story behind the lyrics being interpreted in music videos, the color schemes coming alive in the outfits and makeup, and the beauty of posing and lighting in the photo books and magazines. It shows how much time and effort people have put into their work. 

  To ARMY, thank you for connecting with me and being an accepting community. It’s always a pleasure meeting ARMYs. I honestly was not much of a conversation starter, but after being a fan of BTS, I’ve been opening up to people. It has helped me so much in my career and social life. Everyone’s motivation and love for BTS are inspiring. I still find it amazing that despite language barriers, we all find a way to communicate with each other through BTS. 

  There are ARMYs all over the world. It seems that the fans' styles differ from country to country, but what do you think of the American ARMYs? Even in the United States, the approaches of ARMYs of each state and race may be different. What do you think are the differences between Korean and American ARMY?

  Honestly, I would say there isn’t much of a difference between Korean ARMY and international ARMY. The main differences would be the difference of how many events we have and the language. Of course, there are more fan events and concerts in Korea because BTS is from Korea! International fans always joke about swimming across the ocean to go to one of the fan events. Nowadays, BTS is making an effort to close this gap by using their SNS and live broadcasts to speak with international fans more. It’s so nice to see BTS reaching out to fans from other countries by using English! Their recent songs like Butter, Dynamite, and Permission to Dance are 100% English, and international fans are able to follow along. English translations are always included in their content, and there are various fan translations that use English subtitles to translate to their own language. It’s beautiful to see BTS also trying to expand their ways of communication by also starting to use sign language for fans. 

  Thank you for taking the time to attend this long interview.

  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about BTS like this. I am so happy and grateful for this interview. 

  During the entire interview, Janice Park constantly mentions how proud she is of BTS and ARMY. I was rather jealous of how dependable ARMY are for one another and how their love for BTS is constant. It is not simply unconditional love as a fan. I believe it is rather the fans’ response of understanding and acceptance of the 7 members’ hard efforts in relaying their meaningful stories. You can feel the power that BTS’ music, gestures, actions, and thoughts give to others. That power is spread through ARMY like a loud and big speaker, playing out into the world and delivering their message to one another. 

  Just like the lyrics of Tomorrow, “Life isn’t about living along but living through.” Therefore, we should live our lives to the fullest and fiercely break existing boundaries. And with this, I conclude this interview with the hopeful wish that the futures of BTS, ARMY, and the interviewee Janice Park are brighter and more hopeful than right now in this place we call the world. Besides, I hope coming BTS concert held in November and December to be a message of hope for people suffering from Covid 19 all over the world.




* 《Cultura》 2021 November (Vol. 89) *

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