K-Pop

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Synonyms: Kpop, Korean Pop
See also: Hallyu, Minihompy, Netizen
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K-pop can refer to all South Korean pop music, but it is often used to talk about the idol industry in particular.

K-pop has an active RPF fandom. While there are many popular solo singers (Rain and Lee Hyori are just two examples), most fannish activity surrounds various boybands and girlgroups, sometimes called "Gasoos".

The Industry

Idol agencies run programs in which they train hopefuls in singing, rap, dance, and foreign languages. The agencies then decide which trainees will debut and the membership, look, and musical genre of the group they will belong to. For example, many trainees have trained for hiphop groups but end up as rappers in a pop group.[1]

This studio-created, highly curated style is what defines idols along with their combination of music, dance, and visuals. South Korea has plenty of independent artists and groups who focus on music with no dance component, but they're outside of the idol industry.

Three of these agencies are particularly large and powerful and are referred to as The Big Three. They are: SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment.

Industry Culture

  • dating bans
  • effects of mandatory military service

History of the Industry

Modern idol groups are often divided into a few "generations".[2]

First Generation

Early 1990s-early 2000s - Seo Taiji & Boys and the rise of idol groups

Second Generation

2003-2013 - Kpop goes international, especially in Asia

Groups: Big Bang, 2NE1, Super Junior, KARA, SNSD, Wonder Girl, Miss A, 2PM, 2AM, SHINee, SISTAR, f(x)

Third Generation

2013-present - Kpop fully breaks into markets outside of Asia

Groups: BTS, Twice, EXO, BLACKPINK

Terminology

  • bias
  • comeback
  • gasoo
  • sasaeng

English-Speaking Fandom

Because of the language barrier and difficulty accessing K-Pop media in other countries, a large part of the English-Speaking K-Pop fandom involves fan labor translating and distributing K-Pop media for other fans’ access.

Fans with knowledge of the Korean Language translate music videos, interviews, TV appearances, and blog entries. Fans also share news and gossip about their favourite celebrities on Livejournal communities and forums. Some fans collect and share K-Pop albums through musical rotation communities.

Fans who like to dance or sing will cover their favourite group’s songs (often, when waiting to buy concert tickets or to enter concerts, these coverists will entertain their fellow fans). It is common for big fans to go to the airport to greet and catch a glimpse of their idols, and common for many fans to film performances, sometimes focusing on their bias(fancams) or other times the whole performance, and post them on Youtube with a watermark. Organised fan groups will host events at coffeeshops to celebrate anniversaries or birthdays, giving out fan-made merchandise, collecting notes for their idols to post to them, and sometimes raising money to support causes or buy gifts for the members.

K-pop fans have their own vernacular. For example, fans will often refer to their favorite member from a particular idol group as their bias. They might also use the word gasoo/gasu, which means a singer/artist in Korean, and which can refer to any singer (including a kpop idol) in general, although it does have a connotation of a “serious” singer.

There is a K-Pop secrets blog, although it is inactive.


Music Rotation Communities

Although less critical now that even the smallest of MVs make their music available on YouTube and even Spotify, iTunes, and the like, Music rotation communities were once an important part of K-pop fandom. For a long time, albums by Korean artists could only be purchased online through stores such as YesAsia, and so popular Korean-language music was not widely accessible outside of speciality stores. Music rotation communities (normally located on Livejournal) are maintained by a single person or a small team of uploaders who share albums (and music videos) by K-pop artists.

This article or section needs expansion.

English Fanfiction

While fanfic is written about various popular K-pop groups (see, for instance, DBSK), because of the large fan labor community, fanfic doesn't dominate the overall fandom. Despite this, the K-Pop fandom as a whole is very large, so the overall contribution of the K-Pop fandom to fanfic is quite large.

Where to Find It

Out of the big three fanfic archives in English, FFN bans RPF, so K-pop fic is primarily found on AO3 and Wattpad. AsianFanfics is another major site. Mid-00s fic was often on Livejournal, while later fic was often on Tumblr and now Twitter.

Different sites have different types of fic, both in terms of which groups are popular and what types of shipping predominate.

K-pop on Wattpad

Wattpad often has het readerfic for groups like BTS.

K-pop on AsianFanfics

A lot of AFF fic is het, both with OC or reader/idol and male idol/female idol. M/M and F/F are also present. Some popular tags in 2021 are:

  • EXO - 145,273
  • BTS - 42,415
  • Shinee - 35,676[3]
K-pop on AO3

Overview: Between 2010 and 2021, K-pop has gone from being a nonentity to being one of the biggest tags on AO3. Much of this is BTS fic. As is the norm on AO3, much of the fic is m/m between group members, but in the 2020s, there is a rise in readerfic, which is often het.

As of September 2021, these are the big AO3 tags:

  • K-pop (442,404) - a metatag encompassing all of the specific group tags
  • 방탄소년단 | Bangtan Boys | BTS (167,189)
  • NCT (Band) (49,031)
  • EXO (Band) (43,674)
  • SEVENTEEN (Band) (26,898)
  • Stray Kids (Band) (24,248)
  • GOT7 (15,113)
  • Monsta X (Band) (11,562)
  • ATEEZ (Band) (10,360)
  • Super Junior (7,594)

History:

In late October 2014, K-Pop became one of the top 5 fandoms in the Music & Bands category on Archive of Our Own, a primarily English site after reaching over 7,600 works.[4] The fandom continued to rise in the ranks until in late October 2016 it reached reached 47,700 works and took the top spot, surpassing One Direction.[5] In March 2018, BTS hit over 52,300 works and took the second place as well.[6] K-Pop has maintained in the top spot, hitting over 100,000 public works in November 2017 and over 200,000 works in March 2019. As of June 2021, K-Pop has over 400,000 fics, of which over 370,000 are written in English. 160,000 of those are written for BTS, a sub-fandom of K-Pop, and the second largest fandom in the category. For comparison, the third and fourth popular fandoms are the general “Music RPF” tag and the English-speaking band One Direction.

K-Pop is popular overall on AO3, even outside the “Music and Bands” category. According to the YouTube video Largest Fandoms on AO3 Over Time[7] BTS became the first K-Pop fandom to crack the top 25 largest fandoms (fandoms with the most works) of any category on AO3, debuting at number 24 on February 4, 2017. BTS quickly rose through the ranks, reaching the number 10 slot on December 31 that same year. According to this video, BTS overtook One Direction as the 8th largest fandom by April 2018. They became the 5th largest fandom in May, 2020. They peaked as the 4th largest fandom starting in October 2020, before falling back to the 5th largest fandom behind Boku no Hero Academia a few months later on January 3rd, 2021. As of February, 2021, it still held that spot with almost 150,000 fics and no other K-Pop band had reached the top 25 by meeting the minimum of 41,806 fics. The overall “K-Pop” fandom was not tracked by this metric.


In addition to regular fanfic, there is a subgroup of K-Pop Podfic in the K-Pop fanfic community with its own dedicated fans.

Fic Timeline

In 2011, the K-Pop fanfiction history blog Time Vault divided the history of kpop fanfiction (in English?) into the following eras:[8]

These eras encapsulate the K-Pop fandom at the time, but do not document the more recent shifts in the fandom, for example the fact that, as of 2021, the K-Pop fandom has primarily moved to Tumblr and Twitter.


Fanwork Events and Communities

Fanwork events are popular within K-Ppop fandom, particularly for fanfiction on LiveJournal. While specific K-Pop groups have events individual to their fandom, there are general K-Pop fanwork events as well.

Some previous events include:

Other communities for general K-Pop on LiveJournal:

Anon memes:

Pimp Posts

Pimp posts are popular among fans, particularly when they want to promote their favorite groups, idols, or ships.

Many have accumulated lists of pimp posts, in an effort for them to be accessible in a directory fashion.

Roleplay

K-Pop has a rich roleplay community, on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Some examples of roleplay directories are at the following blogs on Tumblr:


Other English Fan Works

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Zines

Gossip Sites

Online Reputation

Graphic circulating on Twitter commenting on K-pop stans
As the popularity of K-pop has boomed, K-pop stans have developed a reputation on the internet. They are know for their massive numbers and enthusiasm, as well as their ability to band together as a result.

Prior to June 2020, K-pop stans had a reputation on Twitter of annoying users who kept posting fancams in unrelated threads and hashtags, often using it as a sole reaction/response. However, during the George Floyd Protests in May-June 2020, K-pop stans banded together and flooded Dallas PD app used to identify protesters, as well as various pro-police and right-wing political hashtags, with numerous fancams, effectively shutting down the app and making the hashtags difficult to scroll. In response, a lot of voices on Twitter expressed admiration towards K-pop stans, and apologized for dismissing the fandom in the past. A lot of people encouraged further action in the same vein. A modified LoTR graphic started circulating on Twitter in threads discussing the fan activism showing the exchange between Gimli and Legolas with K-pop idol pasted into Legolas' place.

This article or section needs expansion.

Korean-speaking fandom

Fans in Korea are well-organized, and powerful: "There's a real sense of ownership and loyalty, and it ties these idols to their fans, up to a really weird degree. A lot of Korean boybands say "cutesy" things like "I'm married to my fans" or "my girlfriend is fanclub name]."" [11]

The kpop industry is one driven by the internet. So you can say that netizens and technology are what create news and drive the market. Netizens are also very opinionated and have no problem to voice their concerns and at some points shame the media. So the media is very wary of them, and must be as convincing as possible when publishing news, in regards to entertainment and artists. A lot of the time, netizens are the ones that make the news and are not easily fooled. [12]

Fan groups can act as powerful pressure groups when they feel it is in the interest of their idols. SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP--three of Korea's major management agencies--have liaisons who work exclusively with fan clubs. Changing demographics may play a role in the increased power of fan clubs. Fan club activities include protecting stars' rights, charitable activities, and promotion. [13]

Popular artists also gain anti-fans: "An anti-fan is a person who ‘hates’ a particular celebrity or icon. Anti-fanclubs, also known as virtual communities of disregard, hate listings and diss-share sites are groupings of such anti-fans." [14]

Sasaengs in Korean fandom have also received an extremely negative reputation among English-speaking and Korean-speaking fandom alike. A sasaeng (or sasaeng fan) is a fan who actively stalks and harasses idols to the point of invading their privacy. [15]

[Example of fan activity, positive and negative. Super Junior fan suicide, DBSK poisoning, SNSD shunning, etc. See this fail_fandom anon thread for examples and links. Another FFA link.]

Fandom in Other Languages

K-pop's global popularity means that it has not only fandom but fic and fanworks in many languages.

Despite being banned, K-pop RPF does show up on FFN. Most of it is in Indonesian, and it tends to be m/m between group members.

The large Russian archive Ficbook.net has 150,614 works tagged with BTS and 49,876 with EXO, among other groups. M/M appears to be popular.

Popular K-pop groups

Controversy

This article or section needs expansion.

In K-Pop Industry

Racism

Anti-Blackness

There have been scandals over cultural appropriation, like idols sporting dreadlocks, and over blatant blackface on variety shows.[16]

Mental/Physical Health controversies

(Jine from Oh My Girl anorexia and the pressure to diet), (Sulli and Goo Hara suicides)

In K-Pop Fandom

Asian Fetishization

Dating Controversies

Edawn and Hyuna. The two worked for the same entertainment company, CUBE. Edawn, who was part of Pentagon, was dropped from the group as a result of the dating scandal.


Resources

Notes

  1. ^ This happened to members of both BTS and KARD, among other groups.
  2. ^ Difference Between K-Pop Generations Through the Years: Which One is Your Favorite? on Channel Korea. Posted May 4, 2020. Accessed September 27, 2021.
  3. ^ AFF popular tags list. Accessed September 27, 2021.
  4. ^ Fandoms on AO3, archived October 26, 2014
  5. ^ Fandoms on AO3, archived October 29, 2016
  6. ^ Fandoms on AO3, archived March 12, 2018
  7. ^ Largest Fandoms on AO3 Over Time by Thom McManus. Posted April 10, 2021. Accessed July 1, 2021.
  8. ^ Kpop fic history] on Time Vault. Posted January, 5, 2011. (Accessed May 17, 2011.)
  9. ^ kpop_olymfics on LiveJournal
  10. ^ kpop_ficmix on LiveJournal
  11. ^ Comment by fivil on Musing on the bizarre "can't date anyone ever" star phenomenon in Asian entertainment. (Accessed July 30, 2009)
  12. ^ The Ugly Truth of Kpop, SM, and the Taesu Scandal! (Accessed July 30, 2009).
  13. ^ Fan clubs grow into forces of nature; mirrored at Omona They Didn't (Accessed May 6, 2010)
  14. ^ What's the deal with anti-fans? The dark side of Kpop's fan culture, Archived version
  15. ^ Sasaeng fan on Wikipedia
  16. ^ Blackface on South Korean TV Show (Accessed July 28, 2010)