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The Struggles of Being a K-Pop Fan

K-pop is life.

I love K-pop. K-pop is life.

I started listening to K-pop back in 2010/2011 when I stumbled upon a Girls' Generation video titled “The Boys.” It was the English version, so I thought they were an up-and-coming girl group here in the US. Then I found out there was a Korean version of the song. That’s when I discovered they were a Korean girl group, one of the most popular girl groups in South Korea. They’re so popular, they were given the title of “Nation’s Girl Group.” I began discovering more and more groups until K-pop became the only genre of music that I listened to. I watch every music video for the group I like, I routinely watch their performances when they make a comeback, I try to watch whatever variety show they’re guest starring on and I follow a lot of them on social media.

I’m a simple fan. And like any fan, if you listen to a song many times, you eventually learn the lyrics. Every time I tell someone I listen to K-pop, the first thing they all say is, “Why? You can’t even understand what they’re saying.” Or if you recommend a song to them, they say, “Sorry, I like my songs to be in English.” To me, it doesn’t matter if I can’t understand what they’re saying. As long as it makes me happy when I’m listening to it, there’s no issue. This also makes it hard to try and converse with someone about K-pop because they’re not willing to give it a chance.

Since becoming a fan, I’ve had to remember the times that their performances get uploaded so I can watch them. This has severely ruined my sleeping schedule. Not only that, I also have to check the time differences to see when a group is releasing a new music video. On top of that, when a group goes on a variety show or has their own show, I have to wait FOREVER to find a website that offers English subs. So, I usually can’t watch until weeks later.

The K-pop fanbase has its good side and bad side. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of the bad side. Usually, like any fanbase, you’ll have fans claim that one group is better than the other. I’ve seen fans say that their “bias” is better than everyone else in that group. They will compare the members within a group and have full-on discussions about how one member is not needed or shouldn’t be famous because of their looks or lack of talent. I don’t want to say that they attack each other, but there are diehard fans that will attack you no matter what. A good example of that is a comment I made on the performance of T-ara, another group I’m a big fan of. I’m well aware of the controversy they went through (that’s a discussion for another time), so I worded it very carefully, despite it being constructive criticism. Next thing I know, there were waves of Twitter pages dedicated to T-ara calling me a troll, telling me to stan some other group, telling me I’m not a real fan, and a lot of other bad things. It’s one thing to defend a group or idol when there’s a troll, but it’s another to attack someone for saying something as simple as “they seemed tired during the whole performance” or “this outfit doesn’t suit the song.” It makes it hard for me to get into any fanbase and call myself a SONE or a BLINK, because most of the fans can be quite toxic.

On the topic of fans, the reactions between international and Korean fans are drastically different when it comes to what an idol does in their personal lives. After being a fan for so long, I’m now able to recognize when an idol says something or posts something and realize the fans are about to turn on them. One of the crazier things that happens is when an idol decides to start dating. A good example is when people found out that Taeyeon of Girls’ Generation was dating Baekhyun of EXO. Us fans in the US were basically okay with it, but the Korean fans began spreading hate all over Taeyeon’s Instagram account. Things got so bad to where Taeyeon had to go up to fans in an airport and tell them to let everyone know that she was sorry. Why should she have to apologize? She’s a grown woman dating. Unfortunately, a lot of those fans think that it’s not okay, and they only approve of them dating the people they paired them with in their head. The slightest things can be deemed controversial, and it’s almost always labeled as a scandal. These scandals come close to ending someone’s career, and it’s very frustrating when it comes to that. The fans put a lot of time (and money) into supporting these groups, only to have fans behave as if the idol has committed murder. They’ll make idols want to disappear from social media, they’ll take the time to demand their parts be cut out of shows, and they will take the time to boycott a group in front of the company’s building.

I truly love K-pop, I really do. Listening to it makes me incredibly happy, and I squeal with joy whenever I see that they’re trying to break into the music market in the US because I think other people can benefit from the overall happiness that pours out of that music. I think so many groups have the potential to do well in the US, despite the language barrier. It shows in the growing popularity for BTS in the US, as well as increased collaborations with other K-pop groups. What I’m not happy about is the racist comments that come along with it. People Tweet horrible things about BTS just because they’re Asian and comment that they don’t deserve to win any of our music awards. A few of the things they said were, “Who are these Asian f*cks?” and “BTS go back to Korea!” The same thing happened when Girls’ Generation won a YouTube award. It’s disgusting. As a K-pop fan, it hurts to see hateful comments directed at the groups I love.

I really hope people become more open to K-pop. There are so many good artists that are currently active, as well as new girl and boy groups debuting almost every month. I also hope the K-pop community becomes more accepting and appreciative of their idols. They need to remember that they are human beings with feelings, and even though they get hate for the dumbest things, they still put on a smile and perform for all of us.

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