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Michelle Cho: ’RM for President’: Rethinking Soft Power in the Era of K-populism
27.06.2022 • 6/14/22 18:00 – 6/14/22 20:00
Eisenhower Room 1.314 IG-Farben Building

On September 24, 2018, Kim Namjoon, aka RM, the leader and spokesperson for the K-pop idol group BTS, became the first K-pop celebrity to deliver a speech in front of the United Nations General Assembly. The group began working with UNICEF in 2017 to support its #ENDViolence Campaign, and RM’s speech kicked off another UN program “Generation Unlimited,” an education and work support program for youth. RM’s debut as UN Goodwill Ambassador and spokesperson for “Generation Unlimited” thrilled BTS fans across the globe, giving rise to the meme: “RM for President.” While this meme was somewhat facetious, what BTS fans seemed to suggest in their advocacy of RM as a quasi-political leader was the failure of existing leadership or the political processes of their respective societies to respond to the concerns and crises of their generation. RM’s foray into the sphere of geopolitical discourse raises a number of questions about the politics of pop culture and fandom, global community and coalition building, and redefinitions of “soft power,” as fans critique the cultural domain of political society.


The talk will be a hybrid event. To register for the online participation, please send an email to Laura Woods: by June 24, 2022.


Michelle Cho is an Assistant Professor of East Asian Popular Cultures and Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto. Her research and teaching areas are Korean popular culture and media, transnational fandom, platforms, genre studies, and global media. Her first monograph Genre Worlds: Global Forms and Millennial South Korean Cinema analyzes 21st century South Korean genre cinemas. Her current project theorizes “vicarious media”—media specifically intended to produce vicarious experience–in Korean wave and fan produced content, e.g., reaction videos, mukbang (eating) videos, and dance practice and dance cover videos. She is co-editing Mediating Gender in Post Authoritarian South Korea with anthropologist Jesook Song, on mediations of gender politics in South Korea in the wake of #MeToo, and BTS: A Critical Reader with Patty Ahn, Francis Gateward, Vernadette V. Gonzalez, Rani Neutill, Mimi Thi Nguyen, and Yutian Wong—an interdisciplinary group of Asian and Asian American studies scholars and fellow BTS ARMY. Her open access and public-facing writing on K-pop, Korean film, fandom, and media convergence can be found at, Even Magazine and The Los Angeles Review of Books


Fig. 1: Michelle Cho

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