Bangtan Boys Transform Image of Asian Men

  • By Choi Bo-yun

    June 05, 2018 13:25

    K-pop boy band Bangtan Boys, also known as BTS, are eroding Western perceptions of Asian men as weak and effeminate and becoming poster boys even among white girls.

    South Africa's the Dailyvox wrote BTS "is reimagining masculinity -- and it's about way more than how they dress. Their growing popularity means that they are creating new standards of how to be a man."

    Shawn Wong at the University of Washington surveyed the attitudes of U.S. students toward Asian men in the 1990s and found that most equated Asian men with the terms "nerdy" and "wishy-washy."

    But now, according to recent postings on the American aggregator website Reddit, the words "attractive" and "new hero" are associated with Asian men.

    Hormone-packed masculinity is gradually being replaced by emotional openness and sensitivity even in Hollywood, and it is here that Asian males are becoming more attractive.

    Bangtan Boys

    Once Asian male stereotypes were largely divided into comical characters like Psy or inadvertently comical martial artists like Bruce Lee. "Asian musicians are changing the game. The remarkable thing about them is not only do they embrace Asian masculinity, they also subvert Western notions of toxic masculinity," Dailyvox wrote.

    Whatever the truth of such pop sociology, the band's style has stolen the hearts of teens and young adults around the world. Their skin tones have been described as "glowing" while American fashion magazines have created columns dedicated to emulating the fashion styles of the boy band.

    Park Nae-joo, a hairstylist for the stars, said, "They look like they jumped out of a romance manga, but their style is not overly exaggerated and is rather approachable. The beauty product market for men has been growing explosively, and that helps Asian men get greater attention across the globe."

    Toshiyuki Ohwada, an expert on American pop culture at Japan's Keio University, told the Asahi Shimbun, "Looking at the success of BTS, we can see Asian men attaining the 'cool' factor, which they never did before. A new perspective has been created as Asian men perform well on audition programs that used to be dominated by Western men." 

    • Copyright © Chosunilbo &
    Previous Next
    All Headlines Back to Top