|Seven-member K-pop boy band BTS is seen in this promotional photo. Courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment|
By Park Jin-hai
K-pop sensation BTS has been nominated for the Order of Cultural Merit. The seven-member boy band that topped the Billboard 200 with their album "Love Yourself: Tear" has been included on the list of this year's nominees with 11 others including legendary folk singer-songwriter Kim Min-ki, the late iconic folk singer Jo Dong-jin and veteran actor Lee Soon-jae, according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
The Order of Cultural Merit awarded by the President of Korea is bestowed upon those who have done "outstanding meritorious services in the fields of culture and art in the interest of promoting the national culture and national development."
The culture ministry said, "BTS has earned great recognition in the U.S., Japan and other overseas markets, contributing to hallyu. Most of its members are singer-songwriter idols," explaining the reason for its nomination. "By topping the Billboard 200 with their album 'Love Yourself: Tear,' the band rewrote K-pop history," the ministry added.
If BTS, debuting in 2013, receives the Order, they will become the first idol band and youngest recipients for the award. BTS previously received a commendation from the culture ministry in 2016. The Order of Cultural Merit is a higher honor than the commendation.
While BTS and many other artists including BIGBANG, EXO, Girls' Generation and many others have received commendations, no idol group has been awarded an Order of Cultural Merit. PSY who ranked in second place on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with his viral hit song "Gangnam Style" was bestowed the Order of Cultural Merit in 2012.
After its commendation in 2016, BTS continued to expand its clout on the global music scenes. The band won the Billboard Top Social Artist Award for the second time in a row in 2017 and 2018, becoming the first K-pop group to win the fan-voted prize twice.
It also topped the Billboard Top 200 album chart with their third album "Love Yourself: Tear" in May and became the first K-pop group to rise to the top of the U.S. mainstream chart. The album remains on the Billboard 200 Chart for a record 11 consecutive weeks as of now.
The winners of the 2018 Korean Popular Culture & Arts Awards will be announced in October. The Awards, first presented in 2010, are aimed to raise the social status of the popular culture industry.
Former awardees of the Order of Cultural Merit include K-pop legend Cho Yong-pil and Song Hae, a 91 year-old host of 30 years for the music show, National Singing Contest. Most recently, the late Choi In-hun, the award-winning author best known for his 1960 novel "The Square," posthumously received the highest cultural honor.
BTS is currently preparing to make a comeback for their repackaged album "Love Yourself: Answer," on Aug. 24. After the album release, the band will launch its "Love Yourself" world tour, beginning with a Seoul concert at Olympic Stadium in Jamsil on Aug. 25 and 26. Over 90,000 tickets for the Seoul concerts have been sold and the concerts have reportedly been sold out.