K-POP fangirls learn the dynamism of Asia through stunning idols
Author: Chiharu Kawasaki
School of Medicine, Teikyo University
Now K-POP has become a phenomenon. Over the last several years, its presence has gotten bigger and wider. BTS was nominated for the Grammy award, BLACKPINK performed at Coachella, the biggest open-air music festival in the United States. TWICE has successfully finished their world tour under challenging circumstances. Not only in the music industry, but K-culture is also now a world trend.
I am 25 years old and grew up listening to Girls Generation or KARA, the so-called 2nd generation of K-POP. My sister has been a massive fan of Korean pop queen IU for about ten years now, and one of my best friends from high school was such a pro-otaku as she studied in Korea to be present at every single stage of her favorite idol group. Her love and passion for her stan let her study Korean, and, of course, she speaks Korean much better than English.
Though I listened to KPOP songs day-to-day scenes, I was not a serious fan of any K-POP artists before 2020. Thanks to the COVID and those boring days when our only pal was technologies, I spent loads of time watching K-POP-related YouTube content. Soon I was enchanted by its mesmerizing visuals and their highly skilled vocals and dance. Naturally, I became a K-POP fan, and I started to stun a group. Because I am the kind of person who wants to talk and share everything about what I love, I needed to talk with other fans. So, I opened a Twitter account. What I saw there was not only the comeback information or amazing pictures of idols. I saw the dynamism of Asia.
Recently, idols from Japan have been active in the industry and many idols from China and Thailand, and what K-POP shows us is no longer limited to the Korean scene. Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, has a large population and a large market and fandom.
In K-POP, there is a culture called comebacks; when a new song is released, they perform it on music tv shows. In the show, their commercial performance is also contested, and many fans want them to win the number one spot. As each entertainment company continues to debut new idols, the level of idols' skills and visuals are inflated, and it is not easy to get the first place. For that, fans have a lot of things to do. They have their roles and are pretty much involved. They play newly released songs on streaming services and YouTube, buy albums, and vote on apps. To achieve their goals, fans call out to each other globally on social networking sites. I think this sense of working together to reach the top is what draws so many people to the idol industry. There is also a fan culture of raising money through fandom, running ads at train stations and on the streets on idols' birthdays, donating to charities in the name of the idol, and even giving gifts to the idols. Imagine that you vote on your phone lying on the bed, and you see your favorite artist's ads appear in Seoul and New York, not on your bedroom wall. Isn't it fascinating?
Japanese young fangirls study the Korean language to get new information on idols from Korean fans. They then share it with their Southeast Asian fans in English via a Twitter function called "Space" at night. Of course, they are not just sharing information but having fun discussing their favorite songs, outfits, and idol favorites in fandom with no borders.
Witnessing this, I came to believe that the future of Japan is not so depressing. It is dazzling and hopeful to see these girls, with the positive energy that comes from their love for their idols, proudly fangirling in the great Asian groundswell.