If there’s one thing I’m guilty of, it’s being overly critical of K-pop fans. I’ve harped on their terrible YouTube etiquette, their obsession with idols’ ideal types, and their irrational assertions that their favorite artists can do no wrong. I’ve gotten into the habit of criticizing but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think K-pop fans are some of the most awesome people I’ve encountered. Hell, I’m a K-pop fan myself. In fact, I’m often times amazed at how extraordinary they can be.
These past couple of weeks have seen two big scandals: Nichkhun‘s drunk driving accident, and T-ara‘s bullying accusations. Each of these has brought out the best and worst of K-pop fans. And it’s led me to want to explore the best of them. It never ceases to amaze me how far they will go when it comes to K-pop. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to share with you my Top 4 Favorite Things About K-pop Fans.
1. They possess the ability to mobilize better and faster than any military force on the globe
Have you ever seen one of those action movies about a small group of thieves planning out a jewel heist? Like Ocean’s 11 or The Italian Job? Each thief has his or her specific role in pulling off the diamond caper: the hot girl who distracts the bad guys, the technology wiz who can turn a toothpick into a key that opens a safe, and the mastermind behind it all. K-pop fans are kind of like that. When a new music video comes out, everyone knows their designated roles. The giffers strain their eyes trying to find the perfect gif moment to post to Tumblr. The YouTubers spend hours replaying the MV to up the view count. And others max out their debit cards to buy as many copies of the album so their group can achieve and all-kill. And when one branch fails, the others step up to do the job. It’s a huge elaborate system.
K-pop fans’ teamwork functions like a well-oiled machine. I’ve never been more impressed than when I hear their clever and elaborate chants during idols’ performances on music shows. Who comes up with those chants and how do they get them to sound so damn good? I mean, the process of writing out the chant, sending them to other fans, and reciting them in perfect cadence is, logistically, almost mind boggling.
Fans are also able to turn any poll into an intense campaign rivaling the United States presidential election. When there’s an Internet poll involving their bias, K-pop fans take to Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr lobbying for their peers to “PLEASE VOTE NU’EST!” It makes you wonder how people even find these polls in the first place and then vote as if their lives depended on it. From a sociological standpoint, it’s actually kind of cool.
And probably the most impressive thing about K-pop fans’ ability to mobilize is their direct influence over decisions made by CEOs. I’ll give a recent example. T-ara’s recent scandal gave way to a group of angry fans who demanded the truth from CCM CEO Kim Kwang-soo. After several explanations of his position (which fans were quick to dismiss), Kim Kwang-soo opted to have a meeting with angry fans (called T-Jinyo). After meeting with them, he finally issued a formal handwritten apology, something that he didn’t seem so willing to do until after meeting with fans. It’s not the first time groups have had to meet with fans after a scandal. 2PM also held a press conference with fans to ease their anger after Jay Park’s dismissal from the group. The ability of the fans to unite together to actually make something happen is admirable and shows how much real-life power they have in the industry.
2. They’re vigilant about converting others and giddy when they do
Almost all K-pop fans know how great it feels when someone outside of fandom genuinely likes a K-pop song that they’ve
forced them to watch introduced to them. Getting others into K-pop (or at least into a song) is fulfilling because it not only validates the fact that K-pop is awesome, but also gives you someone to spazz with.
I love that fans are very particular about converting people to the groups that they love. For example, I once told a huge Exo fan on the Seoulbeats team that I wanted to learn a bit about Exo and that I was going online to do research. But she responded, “No, Salima. Don’t go online. I’ll send you everything you need to know about Exo.” And then she gave me the low down on every single member of Exo from videos, to music, and hot photos of them. I didn’t become a huge fan, but it was important to her that I at least saw the best of Exo before I made a judgment on whether or not I liked them.
K-pop fans genuinely want others to like the music. When non K-pop fans harshly criticize the music online, fans lash out with critical comments of their own. But I think that behind the retaliation they are just hurt that not everyone is as excited about K-pop as they are. And it’s that earnest quality that I find endearing and indicative of the notion that K-pop fans most times have the best intentions.
3. They go all out to provide subtitles for the language-challenged
I am convinced that some fans have the supernatural ability to sub idol appearances before the appearances even happen. That’s how quick they are. Without subbers, K-pop would not be as prolific online as it is now. Without them, my K-pop, K-drama, and K-variety experience wouldn’t be half as rich. I never would have been able to fully enjoy Running Man, Shinhwa Broadcast, X-Man, and my favorite idols’ variety appearances.
Sometimes we take subbers for granted. In fact, there are some fans who demand that subtitles be released faster, because darn it, they can’t wait another day to find out what Chansung said to Taecyeon to make him giggle so hard! But providing subtitles takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Subbers have to take the time to watch shows, re-watch shows, translate, typeset, make sure their translations are accurate, upload the videos, anticipate their videos being taken down, and so on. So when subbers go through all of this trouble, it’s because they genuinely have a love for the show or idol group, and want to share that love with others.
4. They’re loyal
Loyalty is tough quality to find. But in K-pop, fans are solid in their loyalty. It’s why they separate themselves into different fanclubs–so that they can focus their attention on the groups for whom they hold the most love. But sometimes this loyalty, though admirable, can rub people the wrong way. For example, when Teen Top‘s C.A.P. was criticized for his sexist comments about how he would treat his son and daughter in the future, many of his fans came to his defense. Some only acknowledged that his statements were a tiny bit offensive and asserted that he’s “only human.” And others saw nothing wrong with his comments and didn’t even want to discuss it. That kind of loyalty can drive people up the wall.
But there are other times when loyalty is necessary. I’ll once again use T-ara’s bullying scandal as an example because it seems to be on the forefront of the K-pop consciousness at the moment. Since we’re still unsure of the solid facts behind the controversy, the issue has continued to stay murky. Most people have stopped being fans of the group and its fan cafe was almost shut down by furious fans. However, there is still a small group of fans that has continued to support the girls due to their loyalty and hopes that new information will absolve them of any wrongdoings. I think that kind of thing is absolutely necessary. Sometimes fans are loyal to a fault, but it’s an element that’s needed to offset negative sentiments towards idol groups.
And those are my Top 4 Favorite Things About K-pop Fans! I know that a lot of the things I’ve listed have their good and bad sides to them, but the important thing is that they’re all done out of good intentions. Sometimes we rag on netizens so much that we forget that there’s good to us too. Is there anything about K-pop fans that’s impressive and admirable to you?