BTS as cultural ambassadors: K-pop and Korea in Western media

Sarah Keith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter examines how K-pop and its artists represent “Korea” within Western media discourse, considering the diplomatic implications of their role. In particular, it addresses how BTS perform the function of “cultural ambassador” within popular music, a genre which has historically proved resistant to use by the state. Drawing on coverage of BTS in English-language news media, this discussion outlines prevailing attitudes to Korea which are revealed through features and commentaries on the group. Dominant discourses include the “othering” of Korea as a peripheral cultural producer, competition between Western and Eastern cultural spheres, and the depiction of pop music as an exploitative industry. It argues that BTS have negotiated these discourses and shifted pre-existing depictions of K-pop and of Korea itself to some extent, showing the inextricable links between culture and politics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe soft power of the Korean Wave
Subtitle of host publicationParasite, BTS and Drama
EditorsYouna Kim
Place of PublicationLondon ; New York
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781003102489
ISBN (Print)9780367609115, 9780367609122
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameInternationalizing Media Studies


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