SEATTLE, Washington — BTS, a group of seven South Korean musicians, has mounted to extreme success since its debut in 2013. RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook continue to break Western-dominated charts and records, defy hegemonic masculinity and produce the relatable and sonically cohesive music that has gained them immense popularity within recent years. The economic impact of BTS has amounted to over 1.7 trillion won ($1.5 billion USD) for South Korea and only continues to develop both the band’s home country and the rest of the world.
South Korea’s GDP and Exports
In late 2018, researchers reported that BTS generated an estimated 4 trillion won ($3.54 billion USD) per year, in addition to an annual 1.42 trillion won ($3.67 billion) in added value. In the same year, a study from the Hyundai Research Institute highlighted that for every 1% increase in search volume for BTS, Korean clothing exports increased by 0.18%, cosmetics by 0.72% and food by 0.45%. Reports predicted that if the band maintained its global success until 2023, the group should generate over 56 trillion won ($49.8 billion USD) between 2014-2023, surpassing the economic effect of 2018’s PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which amounted to a mere 41.6 trillion won in comparison. Following the “BTS 5th Muster [Magic Shop]” performance in Busan and Seoul, the concert accounted for 1.6% and 0.9% of the two cities’ GDPs, respectively.
BTS’s most recent record of being the first Korean group to reach number one on the Billboard Top 100 launched a series of new statistics to account for the band’s landmark achievement in September 2020. Expectations have determined that exports of food, clothing and cosmetics will increase by $312 million USD and create 8,000 new jobs in South Korea.
BTS & Tourism
The Korean Foundation for International Cultural Exchange estimates that 800,000 tourists visit South Korea every year for BTS-related reasons. Reports also stated that the band could be responsible for 7.6% of all tourists who visit South Korea. Meanwhile, in 2017, one in every 13 tourists visited the country for the sake of BTS. The Seoul Metropolitan Government attributes the revival of Seoul’s tourism industry to BTS after experiencing a negative impact due to the government’s deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in 2016. It is immensely rare for a single group or person to impact a country’s tourism industry so significantly as opposed to a landmark or major event. This shows the extent of the economic impact of BTS on South Korea.
The band’s popularity allows cities abroad to flourish as well. Estimates have determined that BTS’s performance at Wembley Stadium had an economic impact on London of 14.4 billion won ($13 million USD). Additionally, BTS’s “Love Yourself: Speak Yourself” Tour consisted of 20 shows across North and South America, Europe and Asia, accumulating roughly $4.8 million per performance while also positively impacting the host cities’ transportation, hospitality and tourism sectors.
Beyond the direct economic impact of BTS on global cities, the band has also indirectly impacted international development on an increasingly significant scale. As BTS has grown in success, its charity work and frequency of donations have grown as well. BTS member Kim Seok-Jin qualified for the UNICEF Honors Club after donating over 100 million won ($88,000 USD) to the organization, working in tandem with the band’s pledge to donate 500 million won ($447,000 USD) and 3% of its “Love Yourself” albums’ sales to its anti-violence campaign with UNICEF. More recently, in June 2020, the band donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter, an amount that BTS’s fanbase, ARMY, later matched.
ARMY has also made significant contributions of its own. One In An ARMY is a fan collective that gathers donations for nonprofits across the globe and has contributed thousands of dollars to global campaigns since 2018. For BTS member Kim Namjoon’s birthday in September 2020, One In An ARMY raised over $9,000 to build a digital night school for children pursuing online learning in India. For BTS’s seventh anniversary in August 2020, the organization raised close to $8,000 to provide 41,550 meals through the Global Foodbanking Network.
The BTS Effect
While the economic impact of BTS has significantly influenced South Korea, the band’s reach is increasingly global in scope as it continues to achieve new heights in its career. BTS became the first Korean group to receive a Grammy nomination and predictions have determined that it will break even more records with the release of its album, “BE,” in November 2020. The BTS and ARMY dynamic has not only made significant cultural and musical contributions but is one that thrives on a sentiment of love and support, a message that translates across borders to create a BTS effect that actively develops the rest of the world.
– Caroline Mendoza
Photo: Wikimedia Commons