BTS – Am I Wrong (English Translation and Ramblings)

Initially posted Oct 23, 2016.
Updated: Dec 25, 2018.  As the song is now a couple of years old, I figured I should make a note about the context and timeline.

 

Am I Wrong – Track 12 on Wings Album

Korean Lyrics from Naver Music.

Lyrics by: Kevin Moore
Song by:  Kevin Moore

As far as I know, when they use a pre-existing foreign song, they don’t get royalties for Korean lyrics even if they had to newly write the lyrics (which is probably why the lyrics credit only Kevin Moore on Naver Music).  But then, Naver Music never really has detailed breakdown of credits.


 

TIMELINE (simple version, just mostly in relation to the song…):

In 2013, Park Geun-hye became elected president.

There were various issues during her presidency.   For example, Sewol ferry tragedy happened in 2014 during her term, although I guess this was only one of multiple issues.

Of note, there was a very good disaster action protocol in place in Korea previously, put in place by a different political party.  Her party got rid of this protocol when it took power (I can’t remember if it was under her or the previous president)….which led to the Sewol ferry rescue being so botched up.  You can imagine the anger at her party afterwards. The disaster action protocol is back in place now with current President Moon and worked very well when they had a massive forest fire recently.  I think a whole mountain burned with winds of 100 km/hour but they managed to put it out in one night with one casualty. (this paragraph updated in 2019)

Under the ex-president Park, there were attempts to suppress criticisms even as early as 2014, and rumors of blacklists of artists who may have criticized her.

On October 24-25, 2016, JTBC reported the existence of a tablet that contains evidence of corruption, starting the path to impeach the (now) ex-president Park.  You can read a really good detailed write up HERE at Ask A Korean. (Thank you, Xbomtori, in comments)

“Am I Wrong” was released on October 10, 2016 on Wings album, just a couple of weeks before JTBC news report.  At the time that the song was released, nobody knew that there was going to be such a sudden blow up of a scandal.   However, this was during a time when there was discontent brewing just under the surface, especially about attempts to censor the media, and the blacklists were kind of like “secrets” everyone knew about.

Of note, I find that BTS songs usually don’t promote simple rebellion, but tend to be more encouraging to listeners to think about the world around them and speak up when you need to.   While the song wasn’t directly a diss to the government, it did raise some eyebrows, as this was a time when you didn’t have to be directly criticizing the government to be on one of these blacklists.

For example, Park’s government restricted media from even talking about things like Sewol tragedy, even in non-critical way.  They felt reminders of Sewol would decrease their approval rate and tried to limit even the natural mourning of the citizens.  The “blacklist” wasn’t something that would have put the artist in physical danger, but could have made them not be invited on TV, get funding pulled if they participate in festivals, etc.

The political scandal that started snowballing in October 2016 led to Candlelight protests involving millions of people that winter and eventual impeachment of Park in March 2017.  While the corruption in the government scandal was depressing to see, I have to say I was quite impressed that non-violent and legal impeachment of a president was actually possible.  This would not have been possible in so many other countries in the world including many “developed” nations.

 


 

The world’s goin’ crazy
And you?  How bout ya?
You think it is okay?
I really don’t think it is.

Even with ears, there’s no listening
Even with eyes, there’s no seeing
A fish lives in everyone’s hearts.
Its name is SELFISH SELFISH

 

We’re all “dogs and pigs”
“dogs and pigs” is a derogatory phrase in Korea to mean the brainless masses. This phrase is used sarcastically here in combination with next line. 
Become angry and lose our shit.
Literal translation is Become angry and become dogs“, meaning lose rational control in anger (eg. lose our shit)

The two lines together means, “if you’re gonna treat us like brainless masses who need no more respect than animals, we’re gonna lose control of our anger at you.”

“Become dogs” is spelled differently but is homonyms with “dogs and pigs” in Korean.  This make the last two words sound the same in above 2 lines.

They do the animal dance during this part.
dogs-and-pigs

This is probably a reference to the scandal (July 7, 2016, just a few months before Wings Album came out) involving an official of the the Ministry of Education.  He seems to believe that those with privilege are not equal with the rest of the population.  In an informal setting (but with reporters around!!), he claimed that the “public can be treated like dogs and pigs.”  He tried to say it was a quote from the movie, “Inside Men” but he has expressed support for class system in other instances as well.

For example, one of the other issues he commented on was a 19 year old (born 1997! same age as JK) who died while trying to do repair work on the Seoul Subway, due to poor work training and work conditions.  It was especially tragic as his remaining possessions just contained instant cup noodle, because he could not afford proper food.  He was a temp worker, in a society that promotes “Passion Pay” (see my Baepsae post about passion pay), rather than decent wages and job security.  This official claimed that to feel sad about this incident as if it were his family, would be hypocritical.
They tried to fire him, but I believe he ended up just being demoted……

This ties back to BTS’s Baepsae song, and how the Silver-spoons/storks do not allow playing fields to be level, and think it is justice.

It’s a Stork vs. Parrotbill (bapesae) war, ERRDAY
Reference to the conflict between the privileged and the poor.
The crazy world, yeah
Makes us go crazy
Yes, we’re all CRAZY
Hey, shout it out MAYDAY MAYDAY
This is probably an indirect reference to the sinking of Sewol ferry.  Any ship sinking related term when the song came out would immediately bring to any Korean’s mind this tragedy that happened in 2014.
In addition, it also ties in with the corruption and greed, as the tragedy underlines many of the issues mentioned above.
-The corruption where the licence/certificate for safety was bought
-They illegally increased capacity of the ferry, and then overloaded it (greed of the upper class)
-half the employees were poorly trained temp workers (ties back with the idea of “Passion Pay”= unfair pay and poor job outlook for the young generation)
-the call for MAYDAY was not done properly (due to poor training, and delayed rescue), and in fact a high-schooler on the ferry had to call for help.
-When the ferry started to capsize, the passengers were told to stay in passenger room and not move (reminiscent of Titanic and how the poor were locked up to sink).  Later, the kids who stayed in the passenger rooms were unable to be rescued even when help arrived.
-The captain and higher-ups of the crew were the first to be rescued and to leave the ferry.
This incident brought about the public outrage about the corruption that allowed such things to happen.

We didn’t know when this song was released, but a few months later, in January 2017, before release of Spring Day, we found out that BTS and Big Hit donated to the families of Sewol.   As the donation was done privately and nobody knew about it until the information was leaked, it is unclear when the donations were actually made.

The whole world seems to have gone crazy, like it’s all over
Oh why (Oh why)

Oh why (Oh why)
Oh why why why why
(OH MY GOD)

(Am I Wrong)
It’s not like I said anything wrong?
It’s not like I lied?
Going crazy (Crazy crazy)
Crazy (Crazy crazy)
Am I Wrong
Am I Wrong
Where are we going?
The world is crazily turning around
“Turning around” in Korean also means to go crazy, so this line can mean “the world is crazily going insane”
Are you ready for this
Are you ready for this
Are you ready for this
(NO I’M NOT)

Yeah, kid, you’re crazy
That you’re not crazy in this crazy world, is crazy
Whole world and everywhere, HELL YEAH
Online and Offline, HELL YEAH

The scandal gave birth to a lot of internet discussions/memes/satire.

For example, one netizen claimed, “If public is dogs and pigs, then should the education be overseen by the Ministry of Agriculture, rather than the Ministry of Education?”

It also gave birth to things like below.
HELL Chosun (or Joseon)” is a common internet slang, that refers to the hellish society that Korea can be at times, to those who are not privileged.  Chosun is what Korea used to be called prior to 1900’s.

The chicken is apparently a nickname of the ex-president Park.

hell-chosun

If you see the news and feel nothing
If you read those comments and feel nothing
If you feel nothing about the anguished hatred
Then you’re not normal, abnormal

“Jungsang” = normal/top.
This line can also be translated as “Then you’re not the top/ruling class”
This pun is used in the title of “Abnormal Summit” talk show.

The whole world seems to have gone crazy, like it’s all over
Oh why (Oh why)
Oh why (Oh why)
Oh why why why why
(OH MY GOD)

 

(Am I Wrong)
It’s not like I said anything wrong?
It’s not like I lied?
Going crazy (Crazy crazy)
Crazy (Crazy crazy)
Am I Wrong
Am I Wrong
Where are we going?
The world is crazily turning around

Even if I lose my way in this crazy world
I still want to live a bit more
I want to find my own beliefs
I cling to these little bits of positivity…  after doing this song.

(Am I Wrong)
It’s not like I said anything wrong?
It’s not like I lied?
Going crazy (Crazy crazy)
Crazy (Crazy crazy)
Am I Wrong
Am I Wrong
Where are we going?
The world is crazily turning around

Are you ready for this
Are you ready for this
Are you ready for this

 


references used:

dog/pig scandal, the official involved, subway fatality, sinking of Sewol, Mayday


A bit of an interesting aside (more rumor than anything) is about MBC (one of the main national TV station).

When the Wings Album was released on October 10, 2016, BTS promoted “Blood, Sweat and Tears” + “21st Century Girl” +  “Am I Wrong.”  I guess “Am I Wrong” was the least promoted out of the three, often shortened and tacked onto the other two performances the first week of release.  After the first week, they usually only perform 1-2 songs, so “Am I Wrong” was usually not performed outside of the first week.

On October 24, 2016, the government scandal blew up with the JTBC reporting.   And randomly, in the midst of the scandal, MBC got BTS to perform the whole length song of “Am I Wrong” on October 29,2016 towards the end of their album promotions.  It got both fans and non-fans to wonder if the station was trying to make a point.  A lot of people thought about the lyrics more carefully and felt the song more strongly during that political climate.

Interestingly, MBC had been a station that had suffered a lot of restrictions from the government under ex-president Park, and had become quite right-wing… so maybe this was an expression of quiet rebellion from a small music program.  After the impeachment, in 2017, MBC had massive strikes to try to reverse some of this control.

12 thoughts on “BTS – Am I Wrong (English Translation and Ramblings)

  1. I’ve been reading the lyrics of some of their songs and the way you break the lyrics down seems to me Prayers should be going up for these young men. Especially the writers and the one responsible for the lyrics. Because The mind of that young man or men is DEEP!!! Very very talented, all seven of them.

  2. I have to ask, are you Korean? Because you have a really deep understanding of Korean culture if you aren’t. Like, I found stuff about my own culture through your blog even though I’m Korean lol

    1. I was born in Korea, but immigrated to Canada towards end of elementary school. I still read/watch a lot of Korean stuff in general, but I usually have to read up/double check a lot of my information before I can post these. ^^

  3. Thank you for this translation! I feel like that Sewol Ferry reference is even more relevant now that BTS were revealed to have donated a lot of money to the families of that tragedy in private. Such sweet boys. Also, I wonder if this song, or other previous ones may have caused BTS to be placed on the South Korean cultural blacklist revealed a few weeks ago? Well, clearly, it didnt work. BTS are more popular than ever. Some people are speculating that their next comeback, WINGS: You Never Walk Alone may be dedicated to the victims of that tragedy, but we wont know until its released…and they would get in a lot more trouble with the government if they did….I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

    1. I think, considering what’s happening with the politics right now with the president/impeachment…. I’m assuming that the blacklist doesn’t have much negative power to the artist at this point. In fact, I think I read an article where an artist was proud that he/she was on the blacklist. One of the artist I did read about who was on the blacklist, was much more blatantly critical of the government/president. Read about him here: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/31/world/asia/an-artist-is-rebuked-for-casting-south-koreas-leader-in-an-unflattering-light.html?_r=0

      BTS is critical of various aspects of society, but doesn’t really single out a political person and heavily bash them nor devote a whole song to bash one person, so I’m sure they will be fine. They seem to write about an issue and subtly allude to various people/situations that are related as examples. The theme of this song is the corruption and the general upper class being deaf to the sufferings of others, not specifially to specifically criticize one person/incident.

      As for the next album, I have no idea what they will do next. I wouldn’t think a whole album would be dedicated to the Sewol incident though. They seem to go their way, aware of the world around them, writing about various things. It would be unusual to limit to one specific incident….but we’ll have to see. :)

  4. Thank you for your research!! Also this weekend MBC gave BTS time to perform both a full version of AM I WRONG besides BST on Music Core, even though it’s neither their comeback week or goodbye stage. K-nets are saying that BTS are really cool for making such a song and that the timing is too perfect (for MBC to broadcast it). Since it’s a complete chaos in Korea right now. (I hope you don’t mind, but for those who are interested…More background information about the Presidential scandal: http://askakorean.blogspot.nl/2016/10/the-irrational-downfall-of-park-geun-hye.html)

  5. Thank you for this ^^ I kinda knew there was something going on in Korea because Suga was asked in the interview about this songs but he quickly denied it anyway. This is really helpful :)

  6. i really like your explanations
    i’ve been reading a lot of lyrics and stuff recently and somehow you always interpret in a very beautiful and intellectual way i guess ?
    it looks like a lot of hard work
    thank you so much for this !

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