In the tumultuous times of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world witnessed an unexpected phenomenon: the immense influence of K-pop fandoms in amplifying public health messages. While the “Wear A Mask” campaign by the World Health Organization (WHO) initially struggled due to political divisions surrounding mask-wearing, the emergence of K-pop superstars BTS breathed new life into the cause.
The Power of K-Pop Fans
K-pop fandoms are a potent force, and their dedication knows no bounds. When BTS endorsed the mask-wearing practice alongside the release of their single “Dynamite” in August 2020, the impact was staggering. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s tweet thanking BTS became the most shared mask-wearing message in history, thanks to the fervent retweets by K-pop fans worldwide.
The Impact of BTS on Health Messaging
A Dartmouth study led by Ho-Chun Herbert Chang revealed that aligning health officials and opinion leaders with entertainers like BTS increased the virality of public health messages by an astonishing 111 times. This partnership bridged ideological gaps, proving that entertainers can serve as neutral third-parties to convey vital messages, bypassing political polarization.
The Study: Findings and Insights
Analyzing 7 million tweets on mask-wearing, the study uncovered intriguing patterns. K-pop-specific hashtags, such as #BTS and #BTSArmy, were widely used, reflecting the global popularity of BTS and their passionate fanbase. WHO Director-General’s tweets mentioning BTS generated a remarkable 234,600 retweets, illustrating the group’s unparalleled influence.
The study also explored the political affiliations of users discussing mask-wearing. While left-leaning users dominated the network, right-leaning users increased their use of the #WearAMask hashtag after BTS’s appearance at the United Nations General Assembly. This unexpected unity showcased K-pop’s power to bridge political divides.
Other Influencers in Health Messaging
Besides BTS, figures like Eric Ding from the New England Institute and the medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” played significant roles in health messaging. Eric Ding, as the chief of the COVID Response Task Force, used his platform to advocate for mask-wearing and public health practices. “Grey’s Anatomy” went beyond entertainment by incorporating health messages into its episodes, making these practices relatable to its extensive audience.
The Organizing Potential of Fandoms
K-pop fans proved that their dedication extended beyond mere fandom. They organized to support South Korea’s COVID-19 relief efforts, donating funds and ticket refunds from canceled concerts. This demonstrated the immense organizing potential of fandoms, highlighting their ability to drive online and offline collective action.
In conclusion, the impact of K-pop fans on spreading public health messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing short of remarkable. BTS and their dedicated fanbase showcased the unparalleled influence of entertainers in disseminating vital information. This study underscores the significance of harnessing the power of fandoms and entertainers as allies in global public health initiatives. K-pop fans have truly emerged as unexpected heroes in the fight against COVID-19. Keep shining, K-pop fans!