K-pop group DeCal explores BTS’ influence, path to fame

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The K-pop group Bangtan Sonyeondan, or BTS, is the focus of a new student-taught UC Berkeley DeCal class in which students will examine both the group’s art and its path to international fame.

The “Next Generation Leaders: BTS” DeCal will explore a variety of aspects of the group, such as its music, history and impact on the world, in order to analyze its success. The class will consist of lectures, screenings and discussions for students to create their own “theories about the group’s success” and also critically think about the group’s albums and media output, according to the DeCal’s website.

“We created this class because we wanted to provide a space to analyze the BTS phenomenon,” said facilitators Soo Rodriguez and Anahita Farshi in an email. “When we saw that there were DeCals on Drake and Kanye, we wished that there would be one on BTS. So, we took it upon ourselves to create one.”

The DeCal announcement “blew up” on Twitter, according to campus sophomore and DeCal student Silvia Nolasco. According to Sean Kelly, another campus student taking the DeCal, “every seat was taken” during the info session for the class.

The DeCal itself garnered significant attention in Korea — the class organizer’s announcement and a selfie of some students who attended the info session were featured on Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation — one of the three major broadcasting stations in South Korea.

BTS has set a precedent within the South Korean music industry, receiving a number of international awards and nominations such as the Grammy and Billboard Music awards. Currently BTS holds the Guinness World Record for most Twitter engagements.

“(BTS) started being the music I listen to all the time,” Nolasco said. “After a while, I followed them on Twitter; I started realizing their lyrics — their message — throughout everything didn’t only sound good but (was also) something kind of meaningful.”

BTS, with its seven members, is known for both its popular tunes and its messages of caring about the world and loving yourself. After collaborating with UNICEF to create the “Love Myself” fund — a project to support children who are victims of violence and sexual assault — BTS became the first K-pop band in history to speak at the United Nations. There, the band announced the launch of Generation Unlimited, a campaign for youth development with empowering messages that echo the messages in its “Love Yourself” album series.

Nolasco said she is looking forward to the DeCal so that she can not only learn about BTS’ history and how it achieved mainstream success in the United States but also so that she can be exposed to new explanations for its popularity. For Kelly, listening to BTS helped him adjust to life away from home and “brought (him) more happiness and joy.”

“It’s always fun to dig deep into something that you really enjoy in life,” Kelly said. “Digging deep into their sociological, social impact. I’m really excited about that just because of this whole new chapter in my life.”

Contact Sarah Chung and Megha Krishnan at [email protected].