In a recent interview with The Korea Times, sign language artist and TV presenter Saori Fujimoto explained why she translates BTS songs into Korean Sign Language and performs them to her YouTube viewers.

South Korea has a population of almost 400,000 people with hearing impairments, ranging from mild hearing loss to profound deafness. While many may mistakenly believe that being able to hear songs clearly is a must for a K-Pop fan, the truth is that numerous people in the deaf and hearing-impaired communities are music enthusiasts.

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MAMAMOO’s Wheein communicates with a hearing-impaired fan at a fansign. | NilWhee/YouTube

31-year-old Saori Fujimoto—who has intact hearing—was born and raised in Japan, but soon became a fan of TVXQ in her high school years. Despite beginning her Korean language learning journey as a teenager, Saori didn’t decide to move to South Korea until 2018, right when the country was hosting the Paralympics.

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Saori Fujimoto | @_saori452/Instagram

After becoming a promoter for the event, Saori was greatly inspired by the Para-athletes in the games and decided to add a new language to her repertoire: Korean Sign Language, also known as KSL.

Since I already came across Japanese Sign Language at my school in the past, I thought it would be great to learn the Korean version in order to interact with the 390,000 hearing impaired here.

— Saori Fujimoto

While BTS already has many fans with partial or complete hearing loss, Saori Fujimoto wanted to help people who use KSL connect with their music even more. As such, she soon started her own YouTube channel where she performs their songs using sign language to interpret the lyrics. But why did she choose to focus predominantly on BTS songs (including “Dynamite” and “ON” so far) when opening her platform?

“Dynamite” | Official SAORI 사오리/YouTube 

The reason, Saori says, lies in the messages BTS share in their songs. According to the sign language artist, “BTS often relays philosophical messages through its songs and brings solace to people worldwide.” However, since “Many hearing-impaired people do not know Korean and its grammar very well,” Saori wanted to create unique content that they can appreciate just as much as any hearing person.

“Dynamite” | Official SAORI 사오리/YouTube 

I especially wanted to create some content with its music in ways that can be appreciated by everyone, including the hearing impaired.

— Saori Fujimoto

Saori went on to share that she blends Korean Sign Language with choreography to create a “more dynamic” performance. However, she makes sure not to put too much emphasis on the dance moves to ensure the lyrics don’t get misunderstood. “Even the directions of my face have different connotations,” she explained.

While some people have attached Saori online for promoting K-Pop and KSL rather than focusing on Japanese Sign Language, she hasn’t become deterred from her mission. Last year, she became the first foreigner to ever pass the written certification test for Korean Sign Language interpreters.

“ON” | Official SAORI 사오리/YouTube 

I spent seven to eight hours every day at an education center in Seoul to prepare for the written test.

— Saori Fujimoto

In the future, she wants to combat a lack of sufficient content for hearing impaired people by uploading more performances to her YouTube channel. Ultimately, Saori also strives to promote awareness of deaf culture and ensure that people with hearing impairments have equal access to resources.

“ON” | Official SAORI 사오리/YouTube

 

I believe my role is to promote deaf awareness in Korea and abroad. In the future, I want to establish a social enterprise to attain this goal and will continue to make content that links sign language and music.

— Saori Fujimoto

Meanwhile, BTS has also strived to support hearing-impaired fans in the past. At one Love Yourself concert in the USA, staff provided some deaf fans in the audience with a sign language interpreter. also used sign language in his “#DearClassOf2020” speech.

Watch Saori Fujimoto’s sign language performance of “Dynamite” here: