Sasaengs: they’re K-pop’s unfortunate baggage. No one likes them and to be one incurs complete disrespect from fans and even ordinary people. These people can be likened to stalkers, and they’re called sasaeng, in specific reference to those actively following K-pop stars. Sasaengs are wild and dedicated fans who, by and large, come with the entertainment business.
To those who are new to this, sasaengs are supposed fans of a group or artist that follow the artist 24/7. They will hire taxis or charter other vehicles to follow their idols wherever they go; they will go all out to trace their personal numbers so that they can call and text them. Sasaengs will hack into their idols’ phones to see who they contact and pay for such things as stolen underwear and personal information. Some will go as far as to break into homes and take pictures of intimate belongings, or even capture photos of sleeping idols. The best and most famous sasaengs belong to TVXQ.
As of late, rookie group Exo has been making headlines with news of zealous fans recording such incidents as Tao singing in the shower, of unruly mobs at airports/elephant stampedes/Disneyland, of members falling due to shoving at airports, and of fans linking arms with members while walking through the airport. Two weeks ago, Exo had an interview with Sports Seoul where they spoke of how sasaengs had affected them, and how they’d wished people stopped this intruding, burdensome sasaeng business.
This case — and probably a few that have come before it — begs the question: why does Exo have such an intense following? The guide below serves to shed light on the faults of Exo and the larger situation; may it act as a warning and a guide to minimising the chances of unruly fandom altercations, for current and future groups.
1) Don’t belong to a big company
Warner announcing a Superman/Batman film can be held in comparison to SM announcing a new group. By coming from a company with a pristine record of hit groups, the idol(s) will surely be taking on the pressures of greater anticipation and higher expectations. With a great and powerful company comes great sasaengs.
Point number one may not apply to a large proportion of stars from the big three, but don’t fret, there are other means to avoiding the problem of sasaengs.
2) Target an older audience
It is often implied and assumed that age comes with wisdom. This is mostly true as older people tend to have the experience and maturity to act responsibly; essentially, having a head screwed on right. This may suck for a bit since consumers of K-pop are mostly teenage girls, but that doesn’t mean you can’t target a different crowd. Never underestimate noonas.
3) Don’t be a pushover
If you’re being pushed and groped, and if cameras are being shoved in your face, don’t try to smile and make conversation with the fans who are doing this — it only feeds and encourages such behavior.
4) Tell them off
Shinhwa‘s Dongwan offered a now-famous line during a promotional event for the group’s first album. “Shinhwa isn’t responsible for your lives.” (5,000 respect points given to Shinhwa!) You can probably guess what happened after; the ones lacking cojones left and the rest stayed. This was bad PR at the time — both Dongwan and Shinhwa lost fans quite early in their career — but I think longstanding fans of Shinhwa today are worth more than those lost so long ago.
I suggest using the most popular members to relay the message; fans are likely to be more receptive. If this isn’t your preferred method, choose to over-compliment your well-behaved fans. (Hint: Russian K-pop fans are some of my favorite people.)
5) Call the police
Imagine that you’re followed by taxis when you go to work or school and that you sometimes spend hours trying to avoid the people in these taxis so that they don’t know where you live. Imagine your house getting broken into and people taking pictures of you while you sleep, or even touching you. Imagine going to public places and getting touched in the most inappropriate places. What do you do? As far as idol accounts go, you let it happen. Right?
A word from the wise: lawyer up. It tends to scare people off.
6) Delete the Internet
I don’t care how, but just do it. In a time of connectivity, this may be hard to do, but you’re likely to be guaranteed a scarce trail on the web, leaving a lost bunch of sasaengs who won’t be able to terrorize you.
7) Be mellow; don’t have an epic backstory
A group’s a group. There’s no need for a long forgotten tale about ninja warriors that possess the powers of lip-rubbing and faint-worthy crotch thrusts. Just release good music. Big backstories tend to influence fans. A sasaeng of a sweet idol is much better than a “godly” one.
8) Debut/come out of nowhere
Hype is one of the worst things to aggravate such fandom mess. It can cause overexcitement, which can lead to over-obsessing, which can lead to people trying to find out as much information about you as possible. This can lead to the discovery of private information that is perfectly normal within the realms of fandom. Try to debut out of absolutely nowhere a la SHINee. Impress with your music and talent, and not with backflips.
9) Take pictures of them
If anything, footage of sasaengs has proven that these groups DO NOT like being filmed or having their pictures taken.
10) Don’t be good looking
This is just a recipe for disaster.
11) Refrain from “shipping”
No OTPs. No BROTPs. No butt patting (no matter how much you want to). No touching, period. Don’t do anything that will incite the power that are fan girls. Delusion can take some people to dark places.
12) Get your fans some nice honey buns
In the words of the very wise Shim Changmin, “Please find a boyfriend.”
It’s a serious shame that some people have to ruin the fun for others. K-pop is very much a fun genre and should be enjoyed without reports of people getting hurt and doing illegal activities, but these things still happen. This list isn’t exhaustive but I’m hoping that they’d make good solutions for your fandom troubles.
Seoulmates, feel free to add to the list!
(Sports Seoul, Images via Kpopstarz, Weibo, S.M. Entertainment, Sports Seoul, SPUR Pink)