Being a fan of a Korean pop idol is something that’s surprisingly simple, yet apparently needs guidelines because so many people just don’t get it.
So I wrote one, because it’s simple.
For this tutorial, you will need: 1) a brain 2) a K-pop idol.
1. Select your K-pop idol.
Select a K-pop idol. Any idol will do, and it really doesn’t matter. Every idol has at least a few fans, so your choice is unlikely to be an issue for anybody. The choices are nearly endless!
2. Note any characteristic features of your chosen K-pop idol.
Study their features carefully. This will help you identify your selected K-pop idol from others in K-pop group lineups or when they are wearing different clothing and makeup from what you’re used to. This could save you embarrassment later.
3. Listen to the music of your selected K-pop idol.
It’s important for music fans to listen to the music of their favourite artists. You’d be surprised how many people skip this important step and prefer to natter about K-pop on forums all day without even listening to the fucking songs. So why not try it? If your idol is in a group, you may not be able to tell at which times they are singing (unless they’re 2NE1’s Bom or AOA’s Jimin), but don’t worry — often neither can they. Just listen to the music, and enjoy it — or not.
4. Watch videos featuring your chosen K-pop idol.
K-pop is a visual medium as much as it is an auditory one, so watching music videos is especially important. Music videos also help you keep up with your idol’s latest look. Aside from regular promotional music videos, there are also live TV appearances and fancams, and if you’re really lucky your idol will also get on regular TV shows that you could watch. However, don’t watch anything with “teaser” in the title, these short segments contain virtually nothing and are a waste of your valuable time.
Also, don’t forget to install Adblock Plus! Don’t feel bad about blocking YouTube’s annoyingly intrusive advertising — unless they’re Psy, your idol has a shit contract which ensures that they’d be lucky to afford an ice cream with the amount of annual YouTube revenue that actually goes into their pocket.
5. Interact with a fan community and discuss your idol.
There are many fan forums and communities on the Internet that discuss K-pop and are often full of members who also like your chosen idol. If your idol is well-known, they might even have a dedicated fan community just for them, which is a great place to get new information about your idol … but watch out! Several fan community members and even moderators and admins can sometimes be batshit crazy insane obsessive-compulsive fucksticks from hell. Look out for this extremist element and keep your distance, as their inane caterwauling and blowing out of proportion of insignificant matters can easily ruin the entire K-pop idol experience for you.
6. See your idol in person and take photographs or video.
If it’s possible, why not meet your idol? Don’t forget to take your camera so you can record the moment for posterity. However don’t get so caught up in the technicalities of equipment that you forget to experience the actual moment that you’re recording. Meeting your idol will also be educational, because while you’re there you’ll also see other people who also want to meet your idol and you’ll notice that these people do not always behave rationally. Identifying irrational behaviour will help you with the next point.
7. Stay calm — your idol is an employee, not your long-lost friend.
There are some important practical matters to remember when following an idol. The first one is that idols aren’t allowed to tell you off or slap you in the head for acting like a fucking spastic dipshit in front of them (although their security might). When you come to a fanmeet and shove the same thing in their face to sign that they’ve already signed for the 550 people before you in the queue, or bail them up at the airport when they just want to get on the plane and get the only sleep that they’ll be getting that day during the two-hour flight, they have to act happy about it and be nice to you even while you’re screaming in their ear like a little cunthole. They also have to smile and wave a lot and pretend to notice you at concerts, be nice on TV even when other people are being rude to them (or else), and so on, because it’s their job. Maybe they like it, or maybe not, but until they leave the K-pop industry and write that tell-all memoir, you won’t know either way. In the meantime, if you really like them and really are a fan, act like it and be cool so there is less stress for everybody concerned. Don’t be like this person:
Acting like a fucking spastic dipshit in public will upset your idol as well as everyone else around you, and could even lead to you being held up to contemptuous ridicule by snarky and condescending Internet bloggers.
8. If your idol is a bit of a douche sometimes, relax — this is normal.
It’s good to remember when following your idols that they are usually young and with youth comes cultural inexperience, which is then exacerbated further by their environment. When someone enters the K-pop music industry at a really young age, many of the personal freedoms and opportunities for personal growth that other people their age take for granted no longer exist for them. Leisure time, education, access to the Internet, and even access to family members (and thus parental guidance) are either removed completely or at the very least highly restricted, replaced with constant work and music business culture (i.e. organised crime). The combination of youth and such a strictly closeted environment creates a situation where people don’t get a chance to grow up normally. Lack of life experience and cultural knowledge may cause your idol to misuse social networking, say ignorant statements on TV (because they are ignorant), and generally respond in a dumb, uneducated way to many things.
The K-pop system is designed to turn kids into machines of pristine malleability, not educated, culturally aware, intelligent young men and women. Underneath it all they’re just teenagers and young adults with the same flaws as everybody else, amplified by an environment where they have zero autonomy and little opportunity to emotionally mature. This is why while it’s definitely okay to like your idol, it’s not smart to look to them as a role model. It’s possible that your favourite idol might be even dumber and less experienced in life than you are.
If you don’t place your idol on a massive pedestal, you’ll feel a lot less let down when they inevitably say or do something stupid or that you disapprove of.
9. Remember that most idols don’t make their own decisions — about anything.
You may find the following video at 3:08 helpful to understand how autonomous idols are allowed to be. Hayana from nugu K-pop group EvoL doesn’t even know what she’s meant to be doing on the music video set, because nobody’s shared with her this information. She’s just been told to stand there and wait, and obviously anything else is shared with her on a need-to-know basis only. Then the video director gets her to do some ass-shaking thing, which she’s unprepared for and actually seems highly embarrassed by:
Fans (and netizens) might look at the final music video that the shoot is for and think “oh, what a slut”, but the appearance of positive, fun-loving, autonomous sexuality in the MV is an illusion created by the editing process — Hayana did the ass-shake simply because she was told to. Now watch the same video from 19:05:
Are you allowed to go out and party?
We’re actually not allowed to go out.
It sounds like when you sign the contract, you’re theirs. They own you, right?
Yeah, they own us.
It’s a lot of sacrifice, isn’t it?
I’m going to stop asking you questions because you might get in trouble I think.
For someone who is a huge star it would be different, their added market traction would make them an asset and give them the power to call their own shots, but that would be the 0.1% at the absolute top of the tree. The majority of K-pop situations would be like EvoL’s at the time the above video was made. Remember this when your idol does something that you dislike — they may not have had any choice.
10. Enjoy the K-pop idol fan experience.
A surprising amount of people seem to forget this part and just use K-pop as a vehicle for them to complain about shit.
K-pop should always be a positive experience for everybody involved, so don’t forget to enjoy yourself!