K-pop, Mandopop and other Asian pop

BTS singer RM’s English skills criticised by The Times. BTS Army go on the offensive on social media

The British newspaper compared K-pop singer RM’s English skills to the character Joey from the hit US sitcom Friends. BTS fans were quick to retaliate on social media

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 8:30pm

When writing about BTS – arguably the biggest band in the world these days – it pays to remember that the K-pop giants also have the biggest and most devoted fan base in the form of the BTS Army, who are always ready to spring to the defence of their idols.

London’s The Times newspaper found this out the hard way when a report on the arrival of the K-pop band in London for two shows on October 9 and 10 criticised the English-language skills of BTS leader RM, who previously went by the name Rap Monster.

Meet the K-pop stars: BTS’ RM, formerly known as Rap Monster

RM, whose real name is Kim Nam-joon, may be trilingual – Korean, Japanese and English, which he learned from watching US sitcom Friends – but this was obviously not impressive enough for the reporter from The Times.

The article said RM’s use of English language was characterised by “his occasionally baffling syntax gives the impression he is channelling Joey rather than Chandler”. The article was referring to two Friends characters: the dim-witted Joey Tribbiani and the intelligent Chandler Bing.

The article also questioned the band members’ masculinity – “When the boys dance in their T-shirts, there is never a glimpse of abs; there are leather trousers but no crotch-grabbing or pelvis-grinding” – and asked why they weren’t in relationships with women despite being megastars.

Members of the BTS Army were outraged and took to social media to air their grievances.

RM has spoken in the past about how he learned English from the US sitcom.

“It was like a cliché for the parents in my hometown to let their kids watch Friends,” RM said in an interview with Yahoo! Music last year. “I had no interest at first, because I could not understand a word. But [my mother] thankfully let me watch it in Korean, with subtitles.

“So as I watched the show, I was so into it – the characters, the love stories. She bought all the DVDs and I watched them all like a dozen times. I think that is why [I learned English so well]. Their speech is clear and easy to understand.”

BTS came to London after a massive concert at New York’s Citi Field on October 6 and play their final night at the British capital’s 02 Arena on October 10 before the Love Yourself: Answer tour moves onto Amsterdam for a concert on October 13.