Joseph L. Flatley wrote in The Verge: “K-Pop fans are, if anything, passionate. And at this event at least, they’re almost always teenage girls. But all that really says is that it’s teenage girls that are willing to take the trek to the west coast in order to get autographs from the members of Nu’Est, for instance. According to the event promoter, fifteen international K-Pop fan clubs made the journey. [Source: Joseph L. Flatley, The Verge, October 18, 2012]
Aja Romano wrote in Vox: “Collectivity has helped ensure that K-pop fan bases both at home and abroad are absolutely massive, and intense to a degree that’s hard to overstate. Fans intensely support their favorite group members, and many fans go out of their way to make sure their favorite idols look and dress the part of world-class performers. K-Con, the largest US K-pop convention, has grown exponentially over the years and now includes both Los Angeles and New York. (There are also anti-fans who target band members — most notoriously an anti who attempted to poison a member of DBSK in 2006. But the less said about them, the better.) [Source: Aja Romano, Vox, February 26, 2018]
"We also see fancams — behind-the-scenes stuff of them recording for the shows — and sometimes we just see them passing out, fainting onstage," said the Toronto-based fan who goes by the name Ky on her YouTube channel. Online, her videos showcase her enthusiastically performing and spoofing the elaborate choreography of K-pop music videos alongside the idols. "They do inspire us, but they do worry us at the same time." [Source: Jessica Wong, CBC News, February 24, 2018]
At MAMA, a K-Pop awards show, in Hong Kong, Jane Sit of CNN reported: “Fans speaking Mandarin, Nepali, Tagalog and Japanese among other languages stood in the waiting areas, staring wide-eyed as the music videos of idols played over and over on the screens. The audience members knew everything about their idols — writing down everything they said and did. It's dedication like this that keeps the K-Pop phenomenon going, and in return, artists give back forms of "fan service". [Source: Jane Sit, CNN, December 11, 2013]
“Newer debuts like Crayon Pop appeal to fans by physically appearing before them at so-called "high touch" events — more personal, face-to-face meetings that allow them to have direct interaction. "At these events, we shake hands with fans and get their advice on what they'd like to see," said Crayon Pop member Cho-A. Acts also use social media as a constant window to keep fans' attention. Crayon Pop has a YouTube channel where fans can watch videos of their everyday lives — shot and edited by their agency. The channel currently has more than 157,000 subscribers.”
K-Pop, Hallyu and Asian culture in general is drawing in a lot of non-Asians. Because of the "multidirectional flow of cultural goods around the world," there is a "new pop cosmopolitanism," according to Henry Jenkins, professor of comparative media studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In an essay in "Globalization" (University of California Press, 2004), Professor Jenkins writes that "younger Americans are distinguishing themselves from their parents' culture through their consumption of Japanese anime and manga, Bollywood films and bhangra, and Hong Kong action movies." Michael Hong, chief executive officer of ImaginAsian Entertainment, said that 60 percent of those who watch his company's Asian channels are not of Asian ethnicity. Similarly, at his company's two-year-old East 59th Street movie theater in Manhattan, which shows only Asian films, 70 percent of the audience is non-Asian. [Source: Deborah Sontag, New York Times, January 29, 2006]
Sasaeng Fans and Anti-Fans
David Tormsen wrote in Listverse: Sasaeng fans, or “private fans,” are generally females between the ages of 13 and 22 whose obsessions with their favorite pop idols reach unhealthy levels.One overzealous fan of 2PM’s Taecyeon sent him a letter written in her own menstrual blood, reading:
“I dedicate to Taecyeon my period blood letter
Ok Taecyeon, You cannot live without me
Sprinkled with a few strands of my pubes”
[Source: David Tormsen, Listverse, May 19, 2015]
“JYJ’s Yoochung found things getting a little too close to home when sasaeng fans either installed or hacked into cameras in his apartment complex’s parking lot, posting voyeuristic photos of his comings and goings online. The group TVXQ seems to suffer particular attention. There are reports of rabid fans copying a key to a member’s apartment, freezing and hacking into his cell phone to check if he’d called a girl, searching for his personal seal in order to register marriage documents, sneaking lingerie into his bags, and ordering food to be delivered to his house, that he had to pay for. Group members have had their hotel rooms broken into and been kissed while they were sleeping, and their family members have received deranged calls.
“Sasaeng fans are highly territorial, attacking other fans who dare to get too close to or touch a pop idol. One report even has sasaeng leaving urine and feces outside the hotel rooms of K-pop stars, “marking their territory” in the words of one insider. Sasaeng fans sometimes devote their entire lives to stalking their idols, dropping out of school and turning to prostitution in order to afford special taxi services. Catering to these lunatics, these taxis drive at speeds of 200 kilometers per hour (124 mph) to keep up with music industry vans shuttling pop idols between destinations.”
Anti-Fans “hate certain pop stars and are willing to verbally or physically attack them or their fans.” Sometimes they like a particular member of group and direct their antipathy at other members in the group. “This is an old phenomenon. In 1999, Gan Mi-yeon from the girl group Baby VOX received scores of letters filled with razor blades, as well as hate mail written in blood and photographs of herself with the eyes put out. The following year, Yoon Kye-sang from the group g.o.d received a drink adulterated with bleach and laundry chemicals, which was drunk by his mother, who was hospitalized. This pattern repeated in 2006, when Yunho from the beleaguered group TVXQ needed to have his stomach pumped after he was given a drink laced with an adhesive substance.
“One organized anti-fan incident that was less destructive and more humorously dramatic was aimed at Girls’ Generation during the Dream Concert in 2008. Then a new act, they were the subject of rumors and hate based on their perceived arrogance. Many fans of the boy bands TVXQ, SS501, and Super Junior hated Girls’ Generation for encroaching on “their boys,” and a boycott was organized during the concert. While usually the audience is awash with colored lights during performances and cheers fill the air, when Girls’ Generation got on stage they were confronted with darkness and silence from the stands. This would become known as the “Black Ocean” incident.”
K-Pop Stars and Their Superfans at KCON
KCON is a Korean Wave (Hallyu) convention that has been held every year in U.S. since 2012. It began in the Los Angeles area and now has an event in the New York area. Reporting from the Prudential Center in Newark near New York City in 2017, Jon Caramanica wrote in the New York Times: K-Pop “tries to make a global phenomenon feel like an intimate subculture, and underscores why that strategy is a savvy one. All day and night, through panels, workshops, dance-alongs and opportunities to meet stars and, finally, a concert, KCON made an effort to condense this huge scene into a series of small, consumable gestures. This was the case even in the most choreographed moments — on the red carpet, where the pop stars dutifully took turns facing each part of the room, so different swaths of screaming fans could get great shots; and during the show, where groups like Twice and NCT 127 interrupted their tightly structured sets for fan interactions (also preplanned, but still effective). [Source: Jon Caramanica, New York Times, June 25, 2017]
“NCT 127, which released its debut EP only last summer, was the highlight of the concert — their hits, including “Fire Truck” and “Cherry Bomb,” are flamboyantly chaotic and unerringly entertaining. The concert also featured the boy band UP10TION and Twice, a squeaky-clean girl group. (The most intriguing artist on the Friday night bill was the singer/rapper Zion.T.)
“KCON is set up to take advantage of the intimacy and fluidity of this still-growing scene (in this country at least) in which superfans — the closest observers — are the real experts. Many of the afternoon panelists were YouTubers, fans themselves who were probably only a couple of years removed from being just regular attendees. On one afternoon panel, “Storytime: I Met My Idol!,” a handful of them related giggly tales of offhand conversations in elevators, or of simply locking eyes with their favorite singer. And at least a couple of the day’s panelists were also in the press pit at the red carpet, shooting photos for their websites.
“The K-pop world has developed its own lingo: “hi-touch,” a way for artists and fans to connect quickly, a sort of extended high-five; “bias,” the member of a K-pop group that you favor; and so on. Much of KCON is devoted to efforts at fan education and inclusion, especially during the daytime part of the festival — a dance floor was set up so fans could recreate the moves from their favorite K-pop videos en masse, and at the myriad sponsor tents, teenage fans sang and danced along to hits like BTS’s “Blood Sweat & Tears.” Merchandise booths offered cheap ways to show loyalty: posters, stickers, enamel pins, bracelets with stars’ names spelled out in glittery letters.
“Most of the extremely diverse fans here were teenagers, not that much younger than the performers onstage. K-pop skews young as a genre — one reason is that South Korea mandates military service for its men, a law that extends even to pop idols. Many in the most recent wave of the genre’s superstars, like the members of BigBang, have recently entered the military, or are about to. Groups like BTS are beginning to fill that void and, if its reception here is any indication, NCT 127 is hot on its heels.
“All of which made the headlining performance of CNBLUE all the more curious. Though the group is all-male, it isn’t a classic boy band; rather it’s a pop-rock band, and all the members, including the charismatic frontman Jung Yong Hwa, played instruments. Of Saturday night’s performers, it was the most established, having been releasing music since 2009. Its music, which had glimmers of Abba and also Phoenix, had little to do with what was happening during the rest of the show.
“Its set was colorful, but also loudly served as a reminder of how young everyone else was, and by extension why K-pop hasn’t been able to gain steady, reliable traction in this country. Just as artists are reaching the peak of their renown, they are snatched away, leaving behind seeds that are only just beginning take root.
K-Pop Fans Empty Planes to Get Close to Their Idols
Some enthusiastic K-pop fans show up at South Korean airports and go through great lengths to get close to their favorite stars. Choe Sang-Hun wrote in the New York Times: “As if air travel did not have enough nuisances, some K-pop fans have invented a new one: They board planes just to get a closer look at their favorite stars and then disembark, canceling their flights just before the gate closes. [Source: Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times, December 18, 2018]
“Screaming fans jostling each other to take a peek at South Korean K-pop stars have become a regular scene at airports across Asia. But recently, some have become bolder, booking first-class seats that get them near enough to snap pictures and ask for autographs in VIP lounges or aboard the planes themselves. They then leave the flight and cancel their ticket. These fans have caused disruptions at several Asian airports recently, and the incidents have angered passengers and airline officials alike: Security regulations require all passengers to leave the plane and repeat security checks whenever anyone voluntarily leaves a flight before takeoff.
“A Korean Air flight from Hong Kong to Incheon International Airport, which serves Seoul, was delayed for an hour because three fans boarded to get a glimpse at the boy band Wanna One. About 360 other passengers also had to leave the plane with their carry-on luggage. Korean Air said in a statement on Tuesday that it had seen 35 such incidents at Incheon this year, adding that the number would amount “to hundreds if all airlines are included.”
“The airline said that it would increase financial penalties in an effort to fight the practice. Tickets that are not used are generally refundable, and Korean Air currently charges “no-show” penalties of 50,000 to 120,000 won, or US$44 to US$106. Beginning Jan. 1, Korean Air said, passengers who cancel some international bookings after going through the departure process will be charged an additional 200,000 won. The carrier said the increase was necessary because of “recent chaos.”
“Airlines based in North America and Europe offer some refundable fares, which tend to be the most expensive, but most tickets are nonrefundable. There have been a few publicized cases of people booking tickets that can be refunded or changed without charge to gain access to airlines’ executive lounges without ever flying. In 2014, Lufthansa won a court judgment against a man who had used that trick 36 times to eat dinner in its lounges. Most carriers have policies prohibiting the purchase of a ticket that the buyer does not intend to use, and some have adopted software designed to weed out scammers.”
Tablo’s Diploma and the Rage of K-Pop Anti-Fans
David Tormsen wrote in Listverse: “The rage of anti-fans is not limited to physical attacks or public disses. Attacks on reputation, even unfounded, can cause immense damage to individuals in Korea’s music scene. The greatest example of this is the rapper Tablo, also known as Daniel Seon Woong Lee. One of the most prominent figures in the Korean hip-hop scene, he came under sudden attack after announcing his engagement to actress Kang Hye Jung. [Source: David Tormsen, Listverse, May 19, 2015]
There had been a recent wave of fake diploma scandals in South Korea, and an anti-fan online group appeared, named TaJinYo, a Korean acronym standing for “We Request the Truth from Tablo.” The group claimed that the rapper’s diploma from Stanford University was a forgery. When Tablo released his university transcript to the media and was publicly vouched for by Stanford registrar Thomas Black, the anti-fans turned to conspiracy theory, claiming that Tablo stole the identity of another Korean Stanford graduate named Dan Lee, an engineer in Wisconsin bemused by the whole thing.
The anti-fans then turned their rage against Tablo’s family, accusing his mother of faking a gold medal win at an international hairstyling competition in 1968. (She didn’t, but the news report that claimed she had was an error that she herself cleared up.) So many threatening phone calls were made to Tablo’s brother David that he lost his job with a public broadcaster. Tablo left his label, Woolim Entertainment, when they hung him out to dry, saying, “We have nothing to say about allegations against Tablo that he had fake education qualifications.” The situation became so intolerable that the rapper was receiving threatening messages on Twitter, being yelled at in the streets, and began to fear for the safety of his newborn baby.
It took an investigative report on the TV channel MBC and the results of a prosecutor’s investigation to finally clear Tablo’s name. Prosecutors issued a warrant for the arrest of TaJinYo’s chief ringleader, who turned out to be a 57-year-old Korean-American businessman living in Chicago. He has defied the warrant, claiming indignantly that libel isn’t an international crime. Tablo was left shell-shocked and suffering from stage fright, a testament to his Kafkaesque encounter with the howling Internet hate mob.
Black K-Pop and Racism in K-Pop
Aliya Chaudhry wrote in The Verge: As the Black Lives Matter movement took over the national conversation, K-pop fans have regularly been credited with large-scale protest actions. K-pop fans used fancams to flood and crash a watchdog app after Dallas Police asked for footage of “illegal activity from the protests.” Fans of the group BTS donated US$1 million to organizations fighting for racial justice after the group donated the same amount to Black Lives Matter. Media coverage started to quickly form a narrative around these events that portrayed fans of Korean pop music as a suddenly politically active and socially conscious monolith. But Black K-pop fans have endured years of anti-blackness from fellow K-pop fans, and it hasn’t changed recently, despite these seemingly progressive moves. [Source: Aliya Chaudhry, The Verge, July 24, 2020]
“The latest backlash against Black fans happened just last week, when Hongjoong, of the K-pop group ATEEZ, appeared in a promotional photo wearing cornrows, a traditionally Black hairstyle. On Twitter, some Black fans criticized the artist for cultural appropriation, the practice of taking and often benefiting from cultural elements historically tied to another group, often one that’s been a subject of oppression. Hongjoong’s supporters told those speaking out that they should leave the fandom, with one user writing, “that’s why people out there hate black people.”
“Korean pop acts draw heavily from Black forms of music, notably ’90s R&B. That extends to artists’ behavior and appearance, which can have a racist history in the United States. K-pop performers have appeared in blackface, worn traditionally Black hairstyles like cornrows, done mocking impressions of Black people talking, said the n-word in songs and on variety shows, worn clothing with the Confederate flag on it in a music video, and dressed up as racist stereotypes. In a conversation with Vox’s Reset, Miranda Ruth Larsen, a PhD candidate at the University of Tokyo, recently referred to this repeat behavior as “cultural misappropriation” since the artists may not understand the global connotation of these fashions and behaviors. Even if the artists themselves don’t know, the teams behind them who may have made these fashion decisions probably “do have an idea that it’s not okay and should be blamed,” she said.
“When Black fans speak out about racist behaviors in K-pop, they’re often hit with backlash from other fans. Christa, a Black K-pop fan, said she was met with denial and vitriol after pointing out an artist’s use of a racial slur. Christa, like several other fans The Verge spoke to, asked to be identified by her first name only out of concern for harassment. “I woke up to a lot of retweets and people in my mentions telling me to delete it,” Christa said. Eventually, another fan used the n-word while arguing with her. “And I was like, whoa, I really got attacked calling out a person for saying the N-word.” She deleted her tweet to put an end to the attacks.
“Christa’s experience is not unique. The same kind of mass coordination that K-pop fans use to get an artist’s single to the top of the charts or flood a hashtag is very quickly turned against perceived critics, especially Black ones, Larsen told The Verge. Artists’ success starts to be seen as a personal achievement for K-pop fans, said Davonna, a Black fan who has been listening to K-pop since 2008. “And I think that mindset is really dangerous. Anything negative, you take that as someone’s attacking you.”
“The attacks Black fans face can range from aggressive replies to upsetting direct messages to the threat of doxxing. Fans tweet out handles of accounts who have criticized their favorite artists, asking other fans to block them, report them, or demand their removal from Twitter. Black fans have been speaking out about the discrimination they’ve faced for years. In 2018, South Sonder reported on Black fans starting hashtags such as #BLACKGIRLSLIKEKPOP to bring attention to their experiences. BuzzFeed spoke to over a dozen Black K-pop fans that same year who described other fans calling them slurs and sending them rape and death threats. Insider also talked to fans recently who were frustrated by Black voices being overlooked. In articles for Vice and Refinery 29, fans spoke about how they are harassed when they spoke out about cultural appropriation.
“Carolyn Hinds, a Black film critic, journalist, and K-pop fan said on Twitter. “Black fans were getting insulted, people were called gorillas, roaches. I was told that I was an Anti and I was a hater and I wasn’t smart enough to understand.” This repeat behavior makes K-pop fans’ activism even more fraught. Only days later, K-pop fans flooded the hashtag #whitelivesmatter with videos of their favorite stars to drown out racist voices on Twitter and Instagram amid the Black Lives Matter protests. They also got that hashtag to trend, giving it a larger audience. “I could just imagine Black people going on Twitter and the first thing they see is this racist hashtag trending,” Christa said. She suggested that fans could have chosen to elevate anti-racist hashtags or tweet links to petitions, like those supporting victims of racial violence, instead of posting fancams. Davonna said she later saw racist comments from people with Black Lives Matter in their display names. Some fans also used artists’ and fandoms’ actions in support of Black Lives Matter to defend stars’ racist actions. “We want to see the idols we like do better,” Chelsea S., a Black K-pop fan since 2006, said. “[That’s] why we try and correct them in the first place, because we like these people. We like the music.”
K-Pop Fans in Latin America
Dani Madrid-Morales of City University of Hong Kong wrote: The core of the article is the reporting of results from an online survey distributed to over 500 Latin American and Spanish fans in 12 countries. The demographic portrait of K-pop and K-drama fans in Spanish-speaking countries that comes out of our survey confirms that the vast majority of fans are female (94.5 percent) and that male account for a small fraction (5,4 percent). The average age is 21.41 (21.42 for female and 21.48 for male), the youngest respondent being 11 and the oldest 56. The largest group is that of 18 to 25 years olds (54.8 percent), followed by those under 18 (27.7 percent) and then the 26 to 35 years old group (14 percent). The young age of most of respondents seems to determine other demographic variables [Source: Dani Madrid-Morales, ‘Transatlantic connection’: K-pop and K-drama fandom in Spain and Latin America,” City University of Hong Kong, 2014]
“A large majority are single (93 percent), are currently studying (70.7 percent), live with their family (90.6 percent) and have a monthly income of 300 euros or less (66.2 percent). In terms of racial composition, fans surveyed report being predominantly Hispanic (74.4 percent) or Caucasian (14.4 percent), and only residual figures were recorded for Asian (1.5 percent), Black (1.7 percent) and other groups (7.7 percent). This internal demographic homogeneity occurs despite the fact that there is considerable geographic dispersion, with 23 countries accounted for when participants were asked about their nationality, Mexico is the most populated country in Latin America and also accounts for the highest number of people surveyed (17.3 percent, n = 94). Argentina and Venezuela come second (11.6 percent, n = 63)
“In terms of cultural consumption habits, in 95 percent of the cases (n = 515) respondents report to have consumed K-pop regularly in the previous month. The preference for Asian cultural artefacts – particularly visual culture – over those coming from other countries is confirmed when looking at other responses. Those surveyed say to have watched Korean cinema (44.3 percent) or other Asian dramas (29.7 percent) over the course of the previous month, both of which are higher values than those reported for American (25.8 percent), Spanish (6.3 percent) and Latin American (14.9 percent) television shows, including soap operas. For musical products, a distinct predilection for Asian performers is less acute, as 36.2 percent report having listened to Western music, as opposed to 26.4 percent who had listened to J-pop and 3.5 percent who had listened to Cantopop or Mandopop over the previous month. Not only do respondents seem fond of Korean contemporary popular culture, but also they show interest in learning the language and visiting the country. One third of those surveyed say to be studying Korean (30.8 percent) and 65.1 percent chose Korean as the first language they would study if they could pick one. Only a very small fraction say to have visited South Korea (3.3 percent) but a large majority say they would like to visit (71.8 percent)
As for K-pop, the dominant majority of respondents consider it to be their favourite music genre (85.4 percent). They mostly access it using YouTube or similar services (96.9 percent). In fact, when asked how they first became interested in Kpop, 68 percent responded that this happened after watching a video online. As presumed, YouTube and the visual nature of idol bands seem to play an important role in the dissemination of Hallyu fandom. In addition, since the majority of fans have less than 100 euros at their disposal each month, it is only logical that free music download and general avoidance of online stores are prevalent among 81 percent of respondents
“We presented respondents with two lists of activities and asked them to select all those in which they had been involved in the previous 12 months. The activities were ranked from a low level of engagement (listening to music from a drama series or looking for information online about Kpop) to a high level (editing a video or taking part in the fansubbing process). Those who had searched information online accounted for 92.8 percent of the respondents, 83.3 percent discussed K-pop with friends, 33.8 percent danced choreographies with a group and 30.7 percent shared songs online. We then grouped these activities bay using a simplified version of Abercrombie’s audience continuum, which goes from consumer to producer, with three categories in between enthusiast, cultist and fan (Abercrombie, 1998). From the data it could be claimed that 46.4 percent Kpop respondents can be labelled as fans, defined as those who, within the context of relatively high media use become attached to certain stars or programmes; 27.8 percent as petty-producers, to whom enthusiasm is becoming an almost professionalized full-time activity; 21 percent as enthusiasts, that is, those who tend to interact with those that share their tastes, and 4.9 percent as consumers, whose interaction with the media can be described in a relatively generalized and unfocused fashion. For K-drama, figures are 10 percent consumers, 44 percent enthusiasts, 38.4 percent fans and 7.6 percent producers
“Reception and cultural decoding For an analysis of how fans decode and interpret K-drama and K-pop we presented them with a list of statements and asked them to rate their agreement on a scale from 1 (totally disagree) to 5 (totally agree). One of the characteristics attributed to the global success of Korean popular culture is its hybrid nature. We found, however, that the element of hybridity does not resonate well with those surveyed. We presented them with two similar statements about the relationship of K-pop to Western music: “K-pop is similar to European and American music” and “K-pop is a copycat of American and European music”. For the first one, the mean score was 2.31 and for the second one, 1.6. If we combine these with the score given to the statement “I equally like K-pop and American music” (M = 2.71), we could interpret that fans surveyed here appear to have a somewhat strong bias against Western music
“On the contrary, as it could be presumed, they have a very high standing of idols and their productions: agreement is high with statements about physical attractiveness of K-pop singers (M = 4.49), about the concern these artists have about their fans (M = 4.43) and the catchiness of songs (M = 4.54). These perceptions – and to a certain extent, admiration – extend beyond K-pop artists. High agreement values were recorded for statements asserting that Koreans have high moral standards (M = 4.30), are particularly polite (M = 4.41), have a high educational level (M = 4.55) and are well dressed (M = 4.41)
Male Hallyu Fans in Latin America
Dani Madrid-Morales of City University of Hong Kong wrote: As we have shown, the majority of K-pop and K-drama consumers are women. That is the reason why most works tend to concentrate on female identities. Males are either completely absent from the discourse or touched upon only marginally. However, fandom cannot be fully understood without understanding the full spectrum of the audience demography. The number of respondents is small (n = 29), but we nonetheless consider their responses to be illustrative examples of transnational – probably global – trends, which should be taken into account. For example, despite a high geographical dispersion of respondents (12 countries), there are still notable similarities between them: they are mostly single; they are younger than 25 and have a monthly available income of 100 euros or less. Further similarities come to light as our focus shifts from statistical to textual analysis. This section, that is, the analysis of self-narratives, is divided into three parts: perceptions about South Korean culture, social acceptance of Hallyu, and issues of gender and sexuality [Source: Dani Madrid-Morales, ‘Transatlantic connection’: K-pop and K-drama fandom in Spain and Latin America,” City University of Hong Kong, 2014]
“We begin with the examination of perceptions about South Korean culture. In their narratives, male respondents tend to idealize Korean culture and declare its ethical dominance. It is important to note here that despite their strong attitudes, none of the respondents has ever visited South Korea. Nonetheless, their praise often highlights Korean morality and, especially, a perceived general respect for elders. One respondent from Spain describes his love for South Korea by elaborating on what first triggered his interest: From 2001, I started to look into Asian countries and South Korea was the one that inspired me the most. The landscapes, the history and morality of people all got me addicted. Me, myself being Christian… here, the respect and the morality are being lost “It is a pity. I don’t know... It is a country that increasingly attracts me. I feel I am half Korean
“In addition, many stress Korea’s rich tradition, history, and good manners. One respondent illustrates this by saying how it strikes him that ‘they (Koreans) are so polite towards elderly people,’ while another respondent praises Korean society by saying that it is ‘superior to ours.’ In terms of social acceptance of Hallyu, fans we examined seem to have divided views. A majority feels that the rest of society looks down upon them, that they are judged for emulating Korean styles and criticized by their environment. However, most of the respondents show confidence in their own preferences and do not seem to be overly concerned about a perceived social awkwardness
“As far as the issues of gender and sexuality go, male respondents seem to be concerned with the fact that their liking for K-pop or K-drama are sometimes mistaken with their sexual preferences Namely, they report that individuals from their immediate environment often stigmatize and label them as ‘gay’ because they enjoy K-pop. One of them writes: ‘they are always criticizing me for listening to Chinese music. Koreans tend to have very feminine looks and my brother, who is very homophobic, is always telling me: “there you are, watching your Chinese gays.”’ Another respondent describes a similar experience by saying that ‘they think that Koreans are gay and presume that I am gay too.’ The issue of homosexuality also came up in discussing Hallyu fashion. One of the participants from Chile describes how Koreans have much higher beauty standards and compares that to his own culture: ‘in Chile, if you worry too much about your skin, your physical appearance or your clothing, they call you gay.’ He goes on to conclude that Chile has a long way to go but that it will eventually adapt and come closer to the standards of South Korea
“Conversely, it seems that some of the fans are attracted to Hallyu precisely because it is far less sexualized than similar products from the ‘West’. One respondent complains that K-pop is demeaned because ‘nowadays people only want sex and more sex. They don’t leave time for romance.’ Two other respondents voice a similar longing for the platonic love depicted in South Korean dramas. Their nostalgia corresponds, to some extent, to the sentiments voiced by middleaged female fans of Gyeoul yeonga/Winter Sonata in Japan (Mori, 2008). Preference for ‘good old days’ when love was more pure and capitalism less prevalent is something that these two otherwise dissimilar audience groups seem to have in common
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.
Text Sources: South Korean government websites, Korea Tourism Organization, Cultural Heritage Administration, Republic of Korea, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2021