A sasaeng fan (사생팬) is widely known to be an excessively obsessed Hallyu fan. Although "sasaengs" are largely not considered as fans, many sources still refer to them as "sasaeng fans". Sasaeng Fans are mostly female between the ages of 13-17. Soompi described sasaeng fans as extreme fans who stalk their idols and invade their privacy with questionable methods.
Sam Lansky, a contributing editor for New York and The Atlantic, wrote that “sa” means private ("私" in hanja) and “saeng” means life ("生" in hanja) in reference to fans’ all-encompassing obsessions with their preferred artists. For sasaengs, the business of deifying K-pop idols serves no indirect function; the lawless obsession is an end itself.
Fan activities and adverse effects
Philippine newspaper Manila Bulletin reported that during a press conference for a concert in Santiago, Chile, Korean boy band JYJ confirmed that they were victims of "invasion of privacy and stalking." According to JYJ member Junsu, some fans exposed their private phone calls and placed GPS trackers on their cars to monitor every move. There were instances of breaking and entering where fans would take pictures, try to kiss them, and steal their private items." Some sasaengs even installed CCTV surveillance cameras near the homes of their favourite K-pop idols. On any given day, the more popular idols are reported to have at least 100 "full-time stalkers" on their heels.
In an incident involving actor Song Joong-ki, an evening jog turned into a thrilling chase starting with two fans running after him when they caught sight of him in a taxi. According to the web portal Yahoo!, some fans hire "special taxi drivers" to follow their idols. Yahoo! refers to an article by the Korean newspaper JoongAng Daily, writing that "there are taxi services catering specifically for these fans. They are willing to speed at up to 200 km/h, chasing after the vans transporting the K-Pop idols."
These sasaeng taxis can be found waiting outside concert halls, celebrity dorms or broadcast stations to catch desperate fans. The cost of renting out a sasaeng taxi for one whole day of stalking varies from $300 to $500 USD. A sasaeng taxi driver of four years, said "I charge $30 USD per hour. It’s hard to stop because you can make a lot of money out of it." In comparison, the average cost for waiting inside a normal taxi in Seoul only costs about $9 USD an hour. Another driver told reporters that although he knows he could be breaking the traffic rules, "the chase can be quite thrilling so we give in to the kids as well." He charges up to $400 SGD for a day but has now stopped accepting such requests.
Adverse health effects
In order to get closer to their favourite idols, some fans have even resorted to hiring taxis to chase after their idols at high speed, occasionally resulting in serious traffic accidents. During Super Junior's Super Show 3 Tour in Singapore, it was reported that "eight fan vehicles were giving chase and were trying to get close to the Super Junior van. A spokesperson representing Super Junior told reporters that "everyone was getting very nervous when the fan vehicles started coming too close. But we travelled on. However, they just kept coming closer and closer." Eventually, one of the fan vehicles collided with an uninvolved car, which set off a chain reaction causing a pile-up of six vehicles, including the van containing Super Junior.
The Korean newspaper JoongAng Daily reported that one ardent fan spent "about 1 million won (about 900 US Dollars) per month to chase around idols, mainly by sasaeng taxis." In order to stalk her idols, she does part-time jobs at convenience stores and lies to her parents about attending a hagwon (private school) to get the 800,000 won per month.
Response and measures taken
A new clause was added to South Korea's Minor Offenses Act in February 2011 to protect K-pop idols from their fans, and a support centre for singers was set up to offer advice and help artists cope with their fame.
- "JYJ Sasaeng Fan Involved in Audio Recorded File Speaks Up About What Really Happened". Soompi. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
- Lansky, Sam. "Hallyu Tsunami: The Unstoppable (and Terrifying) Rise of K-Pop Fandom". Grantland.com. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
- "JYJ members confirm invasion of privacy, surveillance by stalker fans | The Manila Bulletin Newspaper Online". Mb.com.ph. 2012-03-10. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- Soh, Elizabeth (2012-08-02). "‘Sasaeng Stalkers’ (Part 1): K-pop fans turn to blood, poison for attention | Singapore Showbiz - Yahoo! Entertainment Singapore". Sg.entertainment.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- "Fans chase him as he goes for a jog". News.asiaone.com. 2012-05-30. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- Vitalsign (2012-03-15). "Reporters uncover the dark truth behind the daily activities of sasaengs". Allkpop.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
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- The New Paper Tue, Mar 01, 2011 (2011-03-01). "Chasing Stars". News.asiaone.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
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- Khairat, Sara. "Korean pop's giant leap with 'Gangnam' steps". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 28 November 2012.