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The K-Pop Fan experience

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Love it or hate it, it’s hard to deny K-pop’s rise and eventual dominance in the music industry.

With billions of YouTube views, trending hashtags on twitter, and the armies of dedicated fans showing their support to their favorite groups, the buzz is real and the signs are everywhere.

Notable K-Pop groups like BTS, EXO, BlackPink, Twice, Super Junior, Girl’s Generation, Red Velvet and many other groups all have hordes of screaming fans, fangirls, and cult-ish fan bases all ready to pounce at the slightest sign of disrespect against their idols.

Exo's concert Stage at the Mall of Asia Arena | Photo by Evan Jane Guino-o
Exo’s concert Stage at the Mall of Asia Arena | Photo by Evan Jane Guino-o
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And each K-Pop fanbase have names on their own: the BTS: Army, The Blinks (BlackPink fans), EXO-L (EXO fans), Sone for Girl’s Generation supporters.

KPop groups also apparently have cross-cultural appeal, with some of them counting as fans even celebrities like Emma Stone, Chloe Moretz, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, and John Cena.

Exo performing one of their songs at the Mall of Asia Arena,  Photo by Evan Jane Guino-o
Exo performing one of their songs at the Mall of Asia Arena, Photo by Evan Jane Guino-o

Filmmaker and artist Aireianne “Air” Ordinario, who hitched her own KPop ‘wagon in 2010, said curiosity got the better of her because one of her classmates in high school wrote a fanfic about her favorite K-pop group.

She was intrigued, she says, so she started listening to a group called Super Junior, which was once the best-selling K-pop artist for four straight years.

Exo band members singing other song in front of their legions of fans in the Mall of Asia Arena photo by Evan Jane Guino-o
Exo band members singing other song in front of their legions of fans in the Mall of Asia Arena photo by Evan Jane Guino-o

If you were listening to MYX in 2009, you probably would have heard their single “Sorry Sorry” which topped the MYX charts when it was released.

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Air bought most of the group’s albums, merchandise, and also went to two concerts of the group in Manila.

Evan and Ems taking a selfie with other Exo fans.
Evan and Ems taking a selfie with other Exo fans. | Photo by Evan Jane Guino-o

“I guess I probably spent around P50,000 for Super Junior,” Air reveals. She said the amount covers concerts, merchandise, concert recordings, and the albums she bought. Being a K-pop fan, she said, is rather expensive.

Still, with her experience, she had made a lot of friends whom she met at concerts, and through online communities (they certainly have a wide fandom). The second time she watched Super Junior, she came with a friend whom she met during her first concert.

Evan and Ems outside Mall of Asia arena, with their Exo glow sticks.
Evan and Ems outside Mall of Asia arena, with their Exo glow sticks.

What then, makes a good K-Pop group? That is the question of the century. There are of course requisites for a good K-Pop groups to be considered “good” by fans. Members must all be great at dancing, singing, and interacting with the fans.

The talent and skills matter a lot, but the attitude that the group shows the fans is also a huge factor, Air shares.

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Add that to the fact that the K-Pop industry spares no expense as far as the production of music videos are concerned, from lighting, to angles, to costumes, to overall aesthetic look and feel.

The BTS Army booth that was designed by Angelie Alvarez that has BTS merchandise. Photo by Angelie Alvarez
BTS Army booth designed by Angelie Alvarez,and the BTS Negros admins and committee. | Photo by Angelie Alvarez

Small wonder why these groups command virtual armies.

Speaking of armies, one such fanbase has created a 15000-strong online group on Facebook. The group, BTS Negros, exclusive for BTS fans, was created by Angelie Alvarez.

Angel, an avowed BTS fan who seeks solace in the pop group’s songs, says BTS’ influence goes beyond her music preference. In fact, the way she dresses up has changed – she was a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl until the boys from BTS entered her life. Her fashion sense was never the same again.

Aireianne Ordinario's K-Pop album collection. Photo by Aireianne Ordinario.
Aireianne Ordinario’s K-Pop album collection. Photo by Aireianne Ordinario.

Angel also started a shop called BTS Shop & Love because, hey, why not give back the love to the group by selling their official merchandise?

She says that her shop provides fans with all their merchandising needs as the process of process of buying K-POP merch is difficult (beware online scams!).

Evan And Ems inside the Mall of Asia Arena, waiting for the concert to start. | Photo by Evan Jane Guino-o
Evan And Ems inside the Mall of Asia Arena, waiting for the concert to start. | Photo by Evan Jane Guino-o

Communication graduates Evan Jane Gino-o and Emerie “Ems” Tangarorang, meanwhile, are both big fans of EXO, as they recently went to group’s concert in Manila.

Ems reveals that she started listening to EXO because one of the members of the group acted in one of the K-dramas she was watching. Evan, Emerie’s close friend, was eventually looped in into the music fad. The rest, as the saying goes, is K-Pop fangirling history.

THE K-POP EXPERIENCE

True-blue K-Pop fans would give an arm, a leg, and maybe their family’s land title just to buy that not-so-golden ticket to K-Poplandia (or to any concert given by their idols, really).

Evan and Ems showing their Exo concert Tickets. | Photo by Evan Jane Guino-o
Evan and Ems showing their Exo concert Tickets. | Photo by Evan Jane Guino-o

Evan and Ems reveal a method bordering on madness, with fans going to the mall at 3 a.m., then waiting in line at 6 a.m. (cutting in would mean bloody murder). And that was just to get their official ticket number. To get their actual tickets, they have to start queueing (again!) at 10 a.m. because concert tickets would start selling by 12 noon.

In fact, Evan says, most of the standing VIP tickets were already sold even before noon.

Emerie and Evan's tickets and merchandise bought from the concert.  | Photo by Evan Jane Guino-o
Emerie and Evan’s tickets and merchandise bought from the concert. | Photo by Evan Jane Guino-o

Despite spending P25,000 each (That’s right… forget about eating for MONTHS, ordinary studes!), both Evan and Ems didn’t regret going to the concert, describing the experience as “amazing”, as the group members interacted with fans, taking pictures or the obligatory selfies.

Sure, non-K-Pop fans would probably look at the level of fanaticism of K-Pop followers with quizzical looks and raised brows. But then again, there is after all a different kind of high in shared experiences, in investing in groups that you and your best friend mutually liked, in screaming hoarse at Jimin’s face as it gets multiplied on the screen.

One of the Group members being showed at the big screen at MOA arena. | Photo by Evan Jane Guino-o
One of the Group members being showed at the big screen at MOA arena. | Photo by Evan Jane Guino-o

How many memes have Jisoo inspired? How can you explain a phenomenon so deeply ingrained in the Gen Z (or even millennial psyche) that fans can perform dance moves in complete sync?

To the cynical critics, it’s more than a fandom; it’s a cult, a multimillion phenomenon.

But to the fans, it is more than that. It is life, it is a lifestyle, something they can relate to, something they can latch on to as their own.

But more most of all, as Ems notes, the love for the phenom is because the groups do not scrimp when it comes to delivering pure entertainment.

Because after all, all fandoms are built that way. Entertainment.

And by the way things are going, by the way the fans react to their idols, K-Pop is not about to get out of style.

Sources:

  • https://www.sbs.com.au/popasia/blog/2018/08/28/17-k-pop-fandom-names-and-their-meanings
  • http://www.starmometer.com/2010/02/15/korean-boyband-super-junior-tops-myx-charts/
  • https://www.soompi.com/article/1235469wpp/6-times-western-celebs-expressed-love-k-pop
  • https://time.com/5521769/famous-bts-armys/
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