Korean Air Force embraces memes, defying military stereotypes

By Park Ung Posted : May 17, 2024, 16:50 Updated : May 17, 2024, 17:36
A scene from the Korean Air Forces BOMB yanggang music video The picure was captured from YouTube
An exploding bomb is seen, in this grab from the Korean Air Force's promotional video clip on YouTube.

SEOUL, May 17 (AJU PRESS) - The Korean Air Force has swiftly embraced Internet memes and cultural codes, as part of efforts to depart from stereotyped images of the military. By adopting this new approach, its official YouTube channel has proven to be successful, attracting 180,000 subscribers with over 100 million clicks on uploaded videos as of mid-May this year.

The latest hit was a video dubbed "BOMB Yang Gang," which parodies "Bam Yang Gang," a song sung by rapper BIBI, which instantly swept the country upon its release in February. The trendy song full of witty and playful puns captivated many Koreans. "Bam," which means chestnuts in Korean, sounds like bombs, while "yanggang" is a Japanese sweetener made with red beans and often with chestnuts.

The one-minute-long clip shows Korean jet fighters taking off and shooting missiles while a song likening love to the sweet snack plays. When a bomb missile hits the target and explodes, the subtle subtitle pops up to emphasize the sound of the bomb. The clip has garnered some 1.82 million views in less than two months since it was uploaded in late March, with favorable comments like "This is the first time that I've felt proud of the Korean air force I'm serving," and "The military's YouTube channels don't need to be stiff. This kind of video makes the military appear more friendly."

The history of uploading such trendy and humorous videos to promote the military goes back over a decade. In 2013, "Les Militaribles," a parody of "Les Miserables" was a massive hit with nearly seven million views. The video conveys messages that the military wants to deliver in a fanciful manner by altering the lyrics of a couple of iconic songs from the movie. Notably, the video's popularity transcended borders, gaining traction not just in Korea but also across the globe. New Zealand-born Australian actor Russell Crowe, who played a pivotal role in the cinematic adaption of Vitor Hugo's classic novel, even retweeted the video. 
The thumbnail of Les Militaribles a Korean air forces parody of Les Miserables The picture is captured from YourTube
A captured image of the Korean Air Force's hit video clip "Les Militaribles" on YouTube
The Korean Air Force's parody of Hollywood blockbusters didn't stop there. In 2019, it uploaded a video titled "Into the Duty," inspired by the soundtrack "Into the Unknown" from the American animated film "Frozen II." In the video, a man who got a sudden enlistment notice sings about the feeling of being conscripted with the modified lyrics of "Into the Unknown." The video encourages youngsters to consider joining the Air Force by portraying it as an invaluable experience, despite the fact that it may be a difficult decision for them due to the lengthy mandatory military service period of 21 months, two months longer than that of the army.

"When making videos, I focus on 'fun,' as that's the factor that captures people's attention," said Kim Yong-hwi, the captain who participated in the production of the snack-themed YouTube sensation. "No matter how good policies are, there's no point if people are unaware of them."

When asked whether high-ranking officers express concerns about making such "light-hearted" creative videos. Kim said, "Since the explosive response to 'Les Militaribles,' any officers rarely interferes with what we made.
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