Editorial: K-pop Fans

Seoul DJ Festival
Seoul DJ Festival

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a little older than most K-pop fans or if it’s just part of my personality but while I love some K-pop, I’ve never been a member of any fan group. Not even Big Bang’s – not really, although I do own a ton of Big Bang merchandise and anyone who’s visited before or talked to me knows how much I love their music (and Tae Yang). I’m just not a fan club kinda girl.

You see, while I love music – and always have – I can’t say that I was ever a member of a fan group. I’ve followed musicians – and still do – online, on Twitter, on Facebook, on the radio, via their websites or music publications but only to stay up-to-date on their music and concerts. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been much on gossip and since I’ll probably never meet most of the musicians I like, what they do in their personal lives doesn’t interest me. I don’t care if they are married, single, dating… I like their music regardless. Oh, I’m sure I’ll feel a twinge if I ever read that Tae Yang has a girl friend or got married but it would last about a second and wouldn’t affect my opinion of his music. So I’ve never understood the fans that get all upset if their fav idol has a girlfriend (and it’s generally the girl fans that get all up in arms about it).

That being said, I do read several K-pop fan and gossip sites nowadays, but as research to find out about new albums, music videos and concerts. However, I only read the articles and not the comments because the comments drive me crazy (it’s not just K-pop commenters though, try reading some mainstream newspaper’s online comments – they can be crazy too). But I do have one confession – I do click-through to some stories not for the research or information but for the pictures. I have a weakness for slim, athletic builds on guys (and washboard stomachs – ah, Jay Park) and man, do a lot of K-pop stars have that. Oh, the wonderful, beautiful eye candy!

Focus Cindy! And back to the editorial… because I write about K-pop regularly, I read stories about K-pop fans and fan groups because they fascinate me. I’ve gotten to know a few online and in person, and I’ve some fans for background information for articles and from that, decided that I needed to write an article, or rather several articles, about K-pop fans. Some of them are lovely people and in fact, some of my friends are fellow K-pop fans. But some of what I read online scares the living crap out of me. Most fall in the middle of course.

I think you could classify K-pop fans into 4 groups (and I’m generalizing here): 

The music lovers – These are the fans who love the music. Sure they may also find the guys or girls attractive but they follow the groups/artists primarily for the music. They’ll like a wide variety of music and not just “K-pop”. (me)

The “bias” fans – They have a “bias”, a favourite group or even member of the group, and started listening to the music because of that group or idol. They often listen to a very small selection of K-pop and usually join their bias’ fan club and talk/tweet a lot about them. (Editor’s note: I hate the use of the word “bias” in this instance and never use it but it is the term used.)

The devoted fans – Similar to “bias” fans except they like a wider range of K-pop. I’ve labeled them the devoted as they will put together care packages, start & manage fan groups or clubs, welcome idols at airports, etc. Their behaviour might be a little over-the-top but it’s positive.

The crazies – Otherwise known as sasaeng (사생팬). I don’t understand this group at all so can’t really explain except I wouldn’t really call them fans because these their rather obsessive actions often veer into the criminal. They stalk, harass, send notes written in blood and otherwise illegally bother the group or idol they “love”. 

You know I had to buy one!
You know I had to buy one! Concert fever

The first three groups are fine and those are the only ones I’ll focus on (like I said, the fourth group needs to seek professional mental help). We may express our love of music and musicians differently (I’d love to interview my favourite musicians, not date them), but it’s mostly about the music for us. I may not understand why anyone would want to limit their musical selection like those in the second group do (I love finding and listening to new music too much) but everyone is different.

I might express my love of the groups I like by buying their music – I own a lot of music and never illegally download it (although I do get review copies for free at times), going to concerts or music festivals, or buying their merchandise (I own 10 pairs of Big Bang socks and a light crown that for the life of me, I can’t imagine why I bought it – concert fever maybe); rather than joining a fan club or starting one. But it’s those differences that make the world interesting.

And those in the third group of fans really fascinate me. The ones who organize groups, clubs, events and flash mobs to show their love. And because they fascinate me… I had to seek out some Toronto fans that would fall into that group to talk to, to interview, to find out what makes them tick. Stay tuned in 2014 for some more articles and interviews with some of Toronto’s K-pop fans.

But the one question that I always want to ask K-pop fans is: why don’t you support or explore other Korean music? So you can be sure that it’s one of the interview questions I’ll be asking. You see, while Toronto always gets passed over for K-pop concerts, we do get more Korean Indie bands performing and yet, very few Canadians – K-pop fans or not – go to their concerts. Even No Brain’s (one of my favourite Korean groups) audience was mostly Korean – in downtown Toronto.

I wish more K-pop fans would branch out and try the other types of Korean music – and support the musicians who come here. Because you never know who’s paying attention. I’m sure entertainment companies watch ticket sales! Plus you just might find new music you like. ^^ And what’s better than that? I know I’ve found a lot of new music I love from attending concerts and festivals. It’s how I started listening to Nell and No Brain (a festival in Seoul) and they are now two of my favourites.

What about you, our lovely readers? What kind of fan are you? Do you just listen to K-pop or do you listen to other Korean music as well?

P.S. I have been told that my “bias” is obviously Tae Yang and/or Big Bang but I would refute that. Yeah, I like them a lot but I also like a lot of music. I feel a special affinity to them because they are the first Korean music I liked but while they are my favourite Korean group/band/singer… they are not my favourite group/band/singer overall (they would be in the top 5 though). 

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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