JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network): Some Indonesian political parties are including K-pop-inspired social media and events in their campaigns, but the reaction is divided.
Recently, political parties have been on social media to give away tickets to Blackpink’s Born Pink tour.
The Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) tweeted that it will give away tickets to the group’s performance on March 4.
Winners were randomly selected from those who followed the party’s Twitter account and reposted the giveaway post.
Gerindra announced a ticket giveaway on its Twitter account to see Blackpink’s performance in Jakarta on March 8.
To win the giveaway, fans had to pose with a photo of themselves in front of a billboard featuring the Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto while wearing Blackpink merchandise.
Tagging Gerindra and Prabowo on social media were also required. The tweets were shared thousands of times, gaining over a million views.
Indonesia’s number of K-Pop fans is staggering. In 2020, The Jakarta Post reported that Indonesians were the third-most devoted K-fans worldwide.
In 2022, the National Mandate Party (PAN) held an event called Birukan Langit Indonesia (Blueing the Indonesian sky) in Jakarta, featuring the rising K-pop group Astro, along with other Indonesian artists such as Tiara Andini, Brisia Jodie, Ungu and Kangen Band.
The gathering was part of the PAN annual national working meeting.
Zita Anjani, a member of the PAN’s central executive board (DPP), stated that the party’s intention in hosting the Birukan Langit Indonesia event was to attract young voters for the 2024 general election.
“It is time for political parties to stop talking about narratives and start referring to the voices of the youth,” said Zita.
But what effect does this have on the political leanings of the millennial generation?
Supporters are divided about the political parties’ tweets offering free tickets.
An account with the username @Blink_OFCINDO, dedicated to Blackpink, wrote: “Hello, @Gerindra; please take down this post. We ask you not to bring Blackpink’s name to your political interests. Thank you”.
To which Gerindra tweeted: “Hello there. Good afternoon. There’s no political interest whatsoever. There is also no suggestion or direction to choose this or that. If anyone interprets it in such a way, we shall return it to their own perspective. Thank you”.
The Blackpink fan account is not the only one that was not impressed with political parties posting about K-pop.
Ines Sela Melia, a 22-year-old final-year journalism student living in Jakarta, said she disagreed with political parties injecting K-pop nuance into politics, considering that Indonesia has a different culture from South Korea.
She told the Post that she would not let the presence of a K-pop idol at an event or the distribution of free tickets influence her vote in the upcoming election because neither of those activities addressed the country’s problems.
But she appreciated the originality of including K-pop in the political sphere.
“Considering how popular K-pop has been recently, it’s easy to see how they (political parties) could have enticed new voters (this way),” she said.
In the 2024 presidential election, millennials and Gen Z are projected to comprise 60 per cent of the voters, according to a study by think tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Ines further asserted that as a millennial, she was interested in the environmental issues, and she had been looking for political figures who are more “relatable” and “humble” for millennials.
“I don’t care about the entertainment stuff. I see there are still millennials who could relate more with politicians who often do blusukan (impromptu visits). It’s better when they genuinely intend to do that, especially to engage with the community,” she said.
Putri Fahira Budiman, 23, added that involving K-pop stars made political parties look “desperate” for more voters and younger followers.
“I know it’s one of the political parties’ efforts to gain a mass (base), to win in elections,” the Jakarta-based make-up artist, who is also a fan of South Korean boy band NCT, said.
She said she will not participate in giveaways, including for K-pop-related prizes, from political parties because it sounded like supporting a “personal interest” of the parties.
Ines explained she will not change her opinion of a particular party during the election due to K-pop “branding” by these parties.
She added that parties should focus more on teaching the people, for instance, by stressing the value of paying taxes rather than handing out free tickets.
Although K-pop is not always political, K-pop fans have effectively organised for political causes.
In 2020, K-pop fans took credit for driving up ticket demand for Trump’s event in Oklahoma, and then not turning up.
Meanwhile, a fan identified as Uby said he was enjoying the engagement of the parties on social media.
“While everyone has reasons for voting a certain way, it’s interesting to see how political parties like Gerindra utilise social media. I didn’t find any particular cringe-worthy posts,” he said.
When The Post asked PSI’s DPP spokesman Zebi Magnolia, whether the organisation hoped to win over a younger audience by giving away free tickets to the Blackpink concert, she replied: “PSI has no intention of politicising K-pop or (using it to) promote PSI as a political party.”
She said the idea of giving away free tickets came from the K-pop community members of the PSI itself.
Furthermore, Zebi emphasised the importance of enabling less fortunate K-pop fans to fulfil their dream of seeing their idols live by giving them money to buy concert tickets.
More than social media, Mr Beltsazar Krisetya, a digital politics expert and chief researcher at CSIS Indonesia’s Safer Internet Lab, said that politicians frequently use such strategies to rally support for important causes among the young voters.
“Young voters’ engagement on social media is at its peak... thus, the impact of social media on the election will be deeper. One crucial finding of the CSIS research noted that those more engaged on social media tended to share more regularly about progressive issues such as climate change,” he said.
CSIS found that 38.6 per cent of young people who use social media had a better understanding of climate issues than those who relies on traditional media (15.2 per cent).
“Certainly, having a good social media presence is not enough. What is needed by the youths is trust in the democratic institution and agents,” Beltsazar said.
Arya Fernandes, head of politics and social change at CSIS in Jakarta which specialises in electoral and party politics, perceived millennials as having developed a more critical outlook.
“They (millennials) are capable of seeing what kind of competencies candidates (have),” he said.
“This time, the people’s choice for leader is not exactly the same as the one they (previously) had in mind. In 2019, followers would look up to leaders who are easier to talk to. My research in 2022, however, suggests that people value honesty and open discussion of anti-corruption problems more highly than they did in the past.”
“The challenges they face are different now. That’s why young people do care about more essential things such as health and social reforms as in the newly passed criminal code that was just enacted. The public is still drawn to approachable leaders, but the characteristics are no longer the primary criteria,” he added.