Date of Award
Croft Institute for International Studies
Seung Cheol Lee
In this paper, I argue that we should turn our attention to the affective labor in the pop culture industry in South Korea. Using the House of BTS event as a case study of K- Pop fandom, I will address the affective labor practices and its impacts in K-Pop fandom. Idol group BTS (방탄소년단) and their company Big Hit Entertainment are a particularly apt study for this choice because they deliberately adopt mediated intimacy as a marketing tactic, creating content outside of music and across social networking platforms that cater to fans’ desire to “know” and adore BTS members. In the House of BTS video series published on YouTube in 2019, this manifests itself as members— mediated through the lens of the corporate camera—invite fans to take part in a “shared” space that is simultaneously a “home” (providing comfort and love) and a “store” (where fans can, of course, spend their money). In line with Henry Jenkins’ conceptualization of participatory fandom (2013), a study of fan-produced content in response to the House of BTS event reveals an active, participatory community encouraging fans to create their own works and allowing fans to find comfort not only in BTS but also in each other. Nonetheless, I found little evidence to suggest that this form of fandom has the potential to be completely liberated from capitalist intent. Though we cannot simplify BTS ARMY activity as blind consumption, the affective and communal investments themselves are inextricable from the logic of (affective) capital. Thus, my research supports Michael Hardt’s stance on affective labor (1999); while affective communities like fandom may arise from affective labor’s use, I maintain that affective labor practices such as mediated intimacy are primarily exploitative in nature, allowing corporations to generate profit through the utilization of fans’ emotional, affective, and communal investments in K-Pop idols.
George, Olivia, ""ARMY, I'm Home!": Digital Community and Mediated Intimacy in K-Pop Fandom" (2020). Honors Theses. 1487.
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