We’d like to think it is a ceremony of welcome that makes the idols feel more at home in a new place and makes them appreciate the love and dedication of their fans. And sometimes, that’s exactly what happens; fans stand a respectful distance away and hold up signs that say “we love you,” never invading the idols personal space.
Unfortunately, what fan camera footage often shows us is something quite different. There is pandemonium that leads to injury — both for the fans and the idols. Security has to get involved and K-pop fans tarnish the reputation of all by giving in to sasaeng hysteria.
Now let’s make this personal: Would you ever go greet an idol at the airport? Maybe you already have, and if so, how was it?
Andy: I would (probably) never go to greet an idol at the airport. First, it’s impractical with traffic and people. Additionally, it’s inconsiderate of others. You only add to the congestion and stress of being at an airport. The safety concerns are immense; Security has to protect and monitor everyone coming in and out of the area, and having a bunch of screaming, crazy fans will not make their jobs any easier.
Then there’s the safety and consideration of the idols. They have just traveled double-digit hours and transferred flights just to get to my state. The last thing I’d want to face, if I were them, is a pack of rabid fans. I understand wanting to show a group that you are happy they are there and that they have fans they probably didn’t know about, but I wouldn’t want to do it at an airport.
Morgan: There isn’t a lot of K-pop action where I live and even though going to the airport might be the only chance I get to see a celebrity, I (probably) wouldn’t go. The only group I would consider going to the airport for would be JYJ. Then again, considering all the fan ‘attention’ they have received over the years, I would be more inclined to say ‘no’ even then. I have heard of a few incidents where groups of fans have kept their cool, held up signs and have been respectful. Jae-joong even posted a video of such fans on twitter, so obviously it is possible.
However, I still would have to say ‘no’. I hate travelling on planes enough to understand that they might not want to be in the public eye when they get off the plane. To me, a fan event where they are prepared and willing to accept the attention of fans sounds much better.
Nabeela: I could never go to the airport to greet idols. All the rushing and waiting around would give me so much anxiety. Also, as someone who’s flown a fair bit. and who enjoys flying but can’t sleep to save her life on flights, I can’t imagine the first thing you want to see after being in the air that long is a bunch of screaming fans grabbing at you and pushing you around. Also, idols usually looks so uncomfortable and put off by fans airport etiquette, or really, their lack thereof. Don’t airport.
Rachel: I thought I would be the only one who wouldn’t go to the airport! If I saw a celebrity there, it would be by pure luck because I never keep up with that kind of thing. Apart from some of the reasons already mentioned, it’s just not in my personality to chase after a complete stranger. Plus if Korean dramas are to be believed, I have a better chance of making an impression if I act completely uninterested and take their egos down a few pegs.
Lo: If I was already in the airport and needed something to do over a layover, maybe — but probably not. I just think that’s creepy. Plus, considering my own hatred of airports and flying, I tend to get a bit frustrated after a flight. I’d likely expect to get my head bitten off. Overall, just no.
Cjontai: I get that we, the common civilians, may not be the happiest at airports, but that doesn’t necessarily mean idols bear the same mentality. They even dress up for the occasion while the rest of us wear sweatpants. Although I’m not in support of shoving cameras in anyone’s faces, showing up with some welcome signs is a nice reminder that the jet lag was worth it. Yes, the flights are long, but what better way to put a smile on their faces than fans cheering their safe arrival?
If the fans organized a flash mob medley of their dance routines, I might participate. It would be a fun, cute greeting that I’m sure the members would appreciate. But as for the shoving, pushing, and grabbing aspect of it, that’s obviously never welcomed. Fans should respect their personal space and be mindful not to hinder others who just happen to be leaving the same terminal as them.
Gaya: You know, I think I probably would go to the airport; mostly because I really like airports. I would turn up early and wander around for a bit, then wait with other fans, and when things start getting rowdy, make my escape and head to the food court for an overpriced meal, before going to the viewing gallery to plane watch.
But really, I’m like Lo in that I would prefer to see idols while in transit, mainly because it’d mean we were in the nicer part of the airport. If they happen to notice my presence, I might say “hi” or “fighting!” and then ignore them so that they don’t think I’m a stalker or something.
Hania: I’m with Cjontai and Gaya on this one. If I could avoid the hysteria and violence that usually goes with greeting idols at airports, then I would love to be part of it. It feels like a great community event, with K-pop fans coming together in a public space to greet their biases. It’d be a great welcoming for the idols touching down, as I can imagine it might be a little depressing to arrive in a new country and feel as if you don’t have a single fan there for you. I would say a quick hello, maybe wave a cute banner, and then let them go on their way, rather than being part of the mob that follows them out to their cars.
Johnelle: Whether or not it’s okay to go greet an idol at the airport depends on the situation. If an idol or group is going somewhere for a concert and release information about when they leave or shoot selfies at the airport announcing their departure–they’re practically asking fans to come out to the airport. If the idols are getting away for a vacation or some private time — it’s definitely not appropriate to stalk them at the airport.
In Hawaii, it is very much a part of our culture to meet family, friends or guests at the airport and greet them with leis and/or gifts. I only went to the airport when Infinity Challenge came to Hawaii for filming. I’m not the type to actually do something like that, but it was Yoo Jae-suk, so I had to. There were only about two dozen fans there who were giving the members leis and gifts while holding some signs and welcoming the cast and crew to Hawaii. I think the cast were touched to see that they had fans in Hawaii and were thankful. I don’t regret going and it’s a fond memory of seeing the Infinity Challenge members here in Hawaii.
Nick: A lot of fans go to the airport for their own satisfaction, seeing this as an opportunity to catch a glimpse of oppa for their own eyes. But I see it as a chance to welcome your favorite singers to your country. I’m all for airport greetings, I love flying, and I actually have considered getting to the airport when idols transit through my city. You get to meet up with fans in your area and bond in real life. When your idols come out of the doors you’re there to welcome them to your country, and to give them a good sendoff before they leave. It definitely is great when idol groups are delighted to see their fans at the airport to greet them, especially when its so many more than expected.
Chelsea: Personally, I can’t help but find the practice a bit creepy, mainly because I still don’t understand how fans know the idols’ flight schedules. Within K-pop culture though, it seems like a pretty normal thing. As Cjontai noted, idols dress up specifically for the occasion and expect fans to at least be at domestic airports.
For me, airport greetings seem a bit too chaotic and messy to be anything I would want to participate in unless someone was paying me to be there. However, if a fan has the endurance, enthusiasm, and maturity to partake in the spectacle, by all means go for it. I’ll wait for the pictures on tumblr.
Miyoko: Just wanted to drop my two cents in as someone who has actually gone to the airport to see idols, once. It was for SMTOWN in 2010, which was my first Kpop concert. I wanted to go for all of the positives listed so far, plus it was the first SMTOWN in the U.S., and I wanted them to know they had fans here. Because SMTOWN is for a bunch of artists, there was a large crowd at the airport and it was chaotic. However, the idols left through a different exit, so the crowd wasn’t blocking other passengers trying to get out of the airport. There was also a lot of security and some barriers so no one could touch the idols. Mostly, the groups got into their vans as quickly as they could and it was a bit anti-climatic.
None of the idols got hurt, and I wouldn’t say it was bad, especially compared to some of the airport scenes we’ve seen via fancams. I’m glad I went so that I have the experience, but I wouldn’t do it again. Even though an airport’s a public space, I did feel awkward — like I was invading the groups’ privacy because they’re just trying to get from one place to another. However, I do understand if people want to go and as long as things don’t get out of hand, it seems like an okay practice.
Irteqa: I think it would be a marvelous and ardent expression of devotion to go greet an idol at the airport. Although I do applaud those who make it their goal to go to the airport and greet their favourite idols, I prefer to remain a quiet watch-from-afar fan.
It’s no surprise that idol groups would be tired from travelling so far, experiencing that nerve-wracking feeling of landing in a different country, and simply preparing themselves for a performance on a foreign stage. These are all quite heady tasks; physically, mentally, and emotionally. Certainly going to greet an idol is important in creating a sense of closeness and belonging; in fact simply stepping into the airport when you know an idol is going to be there assures you that the energetic, sparkling, and titillating idols of K-pop are in fact real human beings!
Adri: Well, I think there’s art in chaos. When you’re in that moment it is so easy to pick up the hysteria and feeling ‘in the zone’ with hundreds if not thousands of other people. Your adrenaline level suddenly goes up a notch and your full of excitement. Yes, it gets crazy at times and sure it will create public nuisance. But hey, we’re just trying to have a bit of fun.
What about you, readers? Do you have an airport experience to share?