Kunpimook “Bambam” Bhuwakul, a Thai member of the K-pop group GOT7, tweeted on 17 October, following the crackdown at Pathumwan Intersection a day earlier:
“Violence doesn’t solve any problems. Don’t use violence on citizens. Open your heart and respect each others’ rights; that’s the beginning of finding a solution. Please take care of yourself.”
It had over 200,000 retweets, more so than any tweet by activists, politicians, or the news media.
This week, the K-pop girl group Blackpink called on “Blinks” (their fans) to watch their video on climate change ahead of next year’s United Nations Climate summit in the United Kingdom.
Blinks across Asia and the world answer the call.
Such is the power of culture.
Especially pop culture.
Politics is an expression of culture. Old generals rule Thailand’s politics in the name of the king because the Thai culture is a web of patronage networks, deeply feudal and highly patriarchal.
However, there’s a wave of cultural revolution and political awakening sweeping through Thailand for the past months.
The Prayut Chan-o-cha Regime can blame K-pop for it.
Case in point, Twitter.
Why has Twitter become the hotbed of political activism for young Thais? Because they first migrated onto the platform, following Korean fans of K-pop stars.
Top trending hashtags on politics are a phenomenon in recent months. During normal times, Twitter is all about K-pop stars, K-pop series, and Korean-looking Thai stars.
When it’s not about kings, generals, and democracy, Lisa Blackpink and Peck Palitchoke dominate the Twitter world.
What’s the common thread that ties the Milk Tea Alliance?
The cultural revolution isn’t just in Thailand. It’s across the region.
Milk Tea is a loose, unofficial alliance of young generation people across the Asia Pacific region. From Taiwan to Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, and other countries, they share the values of standing against local authoritarianism and China’s regional expansion.
But before the Milk Tea Alliance came into existence, they also shared the love of K-pop.
Check out high school viral sensation Angang Opilan. When she’s not studying, fighting for democracy, or interviewing Hong Kong protest leader Joshua Wong, K-pop is her passion.
What does K-pop represent?
It’s a global phenomenon that sees K-pop stars sell out tickets even in Europe and North America. Parasite won the Oscars for best picture. The Republican Party’s 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney danced to “Gangnam Style.” However, it didn’t help him to win.
K-pop represents Asia’s victory on the global stage long dominated by western culture. It defines innovation, progress, and freedom. It breaks barriers and restrictions. It opens the world of dreams and imagination. It’s a critical factor in placing South Korea among the developed countries. South Korea, which was under military rule up to 1987.
South Korea is so cool that while most Thais get our plastic surgery done locally, the truly rich and fabulous get it done in South Korea.
Hence, the cultural mindset of young generation Thais and Asians.
The mindset that sees a world of possibilities, but when they look back at their surroundings, in their own countries, what do they see?
For Thailand, they see a 66-year-old prime minister cosplaying in a boy scout uniform mumbling about duty, obedience, conformity, and loyalty.
They see the enslavement of the mindset and the human spirit. Shackled by “this is inappropriate.” Chained by “this is unThai.” Imprisoned by “don’t be ungrateful.”
Branded as “nation haters.”
So they rebel, and why wouldn’t they?
Who are the big contributors and supporters of Thailand’s pro-democracy movement?
K-pop fans across the region.
Who are the young people out in the streets fighting for democracy?
K-pop fans. Some even routinely put on K-pop dance shows at protest sites.
Why are young K-pop fans rebelling against Thailand’s traditional establishment?
Because they have very little in common with Thailand’s traditional establishment, but they identify with the rising Asian youth culture. This is their cultural DNA.
They want to build their future, but it requires them to free themselves from Thailand’s old regime, unshackled and unchained.
Why do Hong Kong protestors stand with Thailand protestors?
The explanation in this article is why. The alternative explanation is, they’re all paid by the CIA, which is, well, you know…
Don’t blame the US. Blame K-pop.
Related article: How the boycott culture can become democracy’s feared weapon