Fandom culture in South Korea

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In South Korea, fandom culture has largely formed around Korean pop idols and anime. These fandoms support a large market for official and unofficial fandom memorabilia. Fandoms in South Korea are now viewed as a mainstream culture and not as a subculture.

Idol fandoms[edit]

Fandom culture of Korean pop idols began in the 1970s with singers Nam Jin and Nahuna. In 1980, Cho Yong-pil appeared in the public arena, ushering in the fan girl culture.[1] Fandoms started to become popular during the early 1980s and continued to grow rapidly into the 1990s with the emergence of Seo Taiji as a teenage idol. Fan girls gained more prominence in the press after the retirement of Seo Taiji and Boys in the late 1990s, and were described as teenaged girls who dedicated their everyday lives to following, watching, or admiring an idol star.[2]

Around the year 2000, many fan clubs appeared and Korean youth culture became a subject of academic study.[3] Many traditional South Koreans disapproved of enthusiastic fandoms, and early studies of the subject took a negative view. A possible reason for its popularity is that idol fandom was a distraction for the rebellious youth culture.[citation needed]

Fan behavior[edit]


Members of idol fandoms may better themselves in the pursuit of their obsession, such as by studying to enter the same university as their idol, learning foreign languages to follow their idol's career abroad or learning image-processing techniques to edit photos of the idol. Fandom may also lead to other interests, for example, idol group JYJ's fans like musicals because of musical appearances by Kim Junsu.[1]


Stalker fans,[4] a.k.a. sasaeng fans, are considered to have become overly obsessed with a public figure and engaged in behavior that constitutes an invasion of privacy.[5] Stalker fans may disguise themselves as a stage hand or manager to approach the star, or pretend to be reporters in order to gain entry to a press conference. Many fans use the Internet and social media to find and track the location of their idols. According to a Korean idol group JYJ, some of the fans came to the group's hostel, stole the members' underwear, took pictures of them sleeping, and later sent the pictures to the members by text message.[citation needed] Many normal fans have an unpleasant feeling about such fans' actions.[citation needed]

Paparazzi also exist in South Korea.[6] The tabloid magazine Dispatch reports on the private lives of people in the Korean entertainment industry, and has violated privacy by exposing secrets and illicitly taken photos. On January 1, 2013, Kim Tae-hee and the story of Rain were published. On July 3, 2013, the relationship of Won Bin and Lee Na Young was exposed to the public and fans.[relevant? ] There was also a report on Noh Hong-chul's drunk driving in the Infinite Challenge.[citation needed] While the Dispatch is an important source of information for many fans, it can be invasive to celebrities.[citation needed]

Animation fandom[edit]

Seoul Comic World is a large animation fandom festival and is considered to be one of the biggest anime conventions in the world. Some fans cosplay (wear costumes) as a public display of their favorite characters.[citation needed] Amateur artists can showcase their work, and attendees can meet voice actors and artists.[7] A large amount of Korean animation fandom is based on Japanese animation, because of its many genres to satisfy the differing tastes of fans.[7]


McDonald's Happy Meal as a "kidult" item

Fans collect memorabilia including idols' photographs and items marked with logos, collectively known as fan merchandise, to express their identities as fans. Fan merchandise was first produced by entertainment companies of first-generation idol groups such as H.O.T. and Sechs Kies whose fans started to buy balloons and raincoats in the group's color.

Sharing and selling merchandise[edit]

Most fan merchandise in South Korea is promoted through social media outlets like KakaoTalk and Twitter. The ability of consumers to find exactly what they want has resulted in an expansion of the market to about 100 billion South Korean won (US$89 million as of November 2017).Teenagers are the trend-setters and are often active as sellers and producers as well as consumers.[8] Fan merchandise sells at a higher price than the nominal value of the commodity because of its sentimental value and appeal as a collectible.

In addition to the official merchandise produced and sold through entertainment companies, fans themselves produce a great deal of merchandise.[9] In some instances, fans have responded to poor-quality official merchandise by producing their own higher-quality products, which are often cheaper.[citation needed] Official goods have an advantage as a commodity, while fan-produced merchandise may correspond to more specialized tastes, such as a fan-made photobook focusing on a particular member of a band. Producers and sellers of fan-made merchandise are known as "home masters".[9]

Although it is illegal to sell products using celebrities' pictures without permission in South Korea, most entertainment media outlets do not defend the right of permission to use a likeness. Some believe that unofficial merchandise fandom cannot be regulated.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jeon, Seulgi (2015). The impact of media reporting on the celebrity to Fandom 연예인들 팬덤에 대한 미디어의 영향력. Inha University. p. 22.
  2. ^ Jeon, Seulgi (2015). The impact of media reporting on the celebrity to Fandom 연예인들 팬덤에 대한 미디어의 영향력. Inha University. pp. 10–11.
  3. ^ Kang, Min Yeong (2013-04-11). "Everything about Korean fandom culture 한국 팬덤 문화에 대한 모든 것". Sportsworld. Retrieved 2017-11-09.
  4. ^ "Stalking Fans of Korea 한국의 사생팬". Chosen News. 2007-04-17. Retrieved 2017-11-10.
  5. ^ "[ENTERTAINMENT] Fan Cults: Social Problem or Stress Reliever?". Korea JoongAng Daily (in Korean). April 9, 2001.
  6. ^ "The term of Paparazzi and the rise of it in Korea 파파라치의 의미와 한국에서 증가하는 파파라치의 상황". PMG. 2015-11-11. Retrieved 2017-11-10.
  7. ^ a b Seung Hwan, Lee (2015). A Study on Manhwa Animation Fandom Culture – Focusing on Seoul Comic World 한국의 애니메이션 팬 문화에 대한 고찰 – 서울 코믹콘을 중심으로. The Korean journalism of animation. p. 12.
  8. ^ Yoon, Sujin (2016). Study on goods manufacturing activities of youth in fandom 한국의 20대의 굿즈 생산 활동에 대한 고찰. Chung-Ang University. p. 3.
  9. ^ a b Hye Min, Ji (2016). Study on the Capitalization of Fandom focusing on the Commercialization of Idol Fan-made Products 아이돌 팬메이드 상품에 대한 광고성의 고찰. Korea University. pp. 28–29.
  10. ^ Kyeonghee, Lee (2014-01-27). "Fan-Made unofficial goods 팬이 만든 직접적인 굿즈". NEWS JOINS. Retrieved 2017-11-10.