While many K-Pop artists sing about romance, friendship, and partying, BTS has never been afraid of breaking the mold and opening the discussion on political issues.
Even BTS’s debut song “No More Dream” certainly didn’t shy away from political issues in South Korea. It tells fans to follow their dreams rather than do what society expects of them.
J-Hope even has a line that urges listeners to “rebel against a hellish society.” Many people noticed that it alludes to the nickname “Hell Joseon” which describes the state of Korea with its extreme focus on education and lack of careers for individuals.
Similarly, “N.O” references the focus on education and touched on the belief that schools are only able to turn kids into studying machines. The song also expresses a desire for that to change.
While “Dope” may seem like a party anthem at first, the song actually has a lot of political messages. During RM‘s rap, he refers to the “sampo, ohpo, and yookpo” generations.
This is a direct reference to those who are considered to be the third, fifth, and sixth generations and what they have had to give up on. These include giving up on romantic relationships, marriage, children, proper employment, owning a home, and forgoing a social life.
RM also states, “Why are you killing us before we can try?“, which points to those who blame millennials for current problems and call them lazy.
Meanwhile, “Baepsae” addresses the generational gap regarding wealth and opportunities. Throughout the song, the boys reference the spoon metaphor popular in South Korea.
Much like the saying that a wealthy person is born with a silver spoon in their mouth, the South Korean version says each person is born with a different type of spoon that reflects their socio-economic status.
Another metaphor that appears throughout the song is the reference to crow-tits. There is a Korean idiom that states, “if a crow-tit walks like a stork it will break its legs.” This is often quoted as a reminder for people to stay in their place and discourages those seen as low-class from reaching for a better place in society.
Probably one of BTS’s most politically charged songs, “Am I Wrong”, focuses on some of the major news events at the time of the song’s release.
For instance, during this time the Ministry of Education called the average person “pigs and dogs” and wanted a caste system. Suga directly mentions this in his rap.
The song also shows a strong connection to the Sewol Ferry incident as well as its aftereffects in the country.
Since BTS released “Cypher Pt. 4” they have also put a strong emphasis on loving yourself. With songs like “Fire” telling you to “live as you like, it’s your life anyway.”
Then there is “21st Century Girls” which encourages women to be strong individuals with lyrics like, “Tell them you’re strong. Tell them you’re enough.”
“Not Today” roots for the underdog and tells listeners to “run if you can’t fly, walk if you can’t run” while asking listeners to never give up on their dreams for the future.
While BTS may be making statements about South Korea, their lyrics are relevant to international fans as well. Perhaps this is part of the reason they have become a global powerhouse.