Since the arrival of the Hallyu wave upon our shores, there has been an ever-growing amount of Korean pop enthusiasts in Singapore. In addition to consuming all things Korean – be it food, beauty or music – it seems that local K-pop fans have also gotten around to embodying the Korean fan culture.
The Korean pop fandom is known to be one of the most prominent, if not passionate in the world. Not only are they superbly loyal, they are also arguably amongst the most creative in showcasing their support for their favourite idols. Fan support projects such as cup sleeve events, special slogans for concerts, and even subway advertisements are a common sight in South Korea – and it is often built into an international fan’s itinerary when they visit the country.
Though it may be fun to soak up the fan culture with other like-minded individuals in the country of origin, there’s often an absence in a sense of belonging for international fans. Perhaps this might be the reason why there has been an increase in the global fan community’s adoption of the Korean fan culture, especially here in Singapore.
To give you a brief breakdown of what it’s about, here’s an insight into different aspects of the Hallyu effect in our little red dot.
During BTS’ concert back in January, a specially designed BTS bus had made its way around the island in support of the supergroup. While it may have seemed like a professional advertisement paid for by the organisers, you might be surprised to know that this effort was actually funded by fans. Inspired by Korean fans who are no strangers to investing in bus ads since 2016, local ARMYs made this hefty contribution in order to celebrate the milestone of BTS being the first Korean act to stage a National Stadium gig. Sure, it might seem like a waste of money to some, but for these fans who have loyally followed and supported the group, it’s a badge of honour that’s worth everything.
#BORAHAEBUS is here for BTS LY Singapore 🚌🇸🇬💜
— 마지막 씬 (@19970901net_jk) January 14, 2019
Cup Sleeve Events
If you’ve been to Korean cafes such as Coffeesmith or Plus Eighty-Two, you might have encountered a surprising surge in the number of patrons at least once or twice. Often decorated with large posters, images and balloon alphabets around the cafe, this phenomenon is known as a cup sleeve event – where fans gather to celebrate the anniversary of a K-pop act, a member’s birthday, or an achievement made by the group.
Fans are required to purchase a drink in order to get the exclusively designed cup sleeve that commemorates the event. On top of the cup sleeves, the venue also acts as a mini marketplace where fan support groups set up shop to sell their personally designed idol merchandises such as keychains, photo strips, photo cards and banners for a reasonable price.
While it might seem impractical to an outsider, it’s a commendable effort on the fans’ part if you were to look at the minute details that helped to piece the whole event together. Not only did fans tap on their creativity, they also had to handle logistics and budgeting all on their own – and these are skills that can’t really be taught.
Went to plus82 today for nflying event and totally enjoyed myself! Seeing the decorations nicely put up was such a joy :) thank you @Wintersky_ for having this event, can’t thank you enough! #Nflying_4anniversary #NFlying_FLYHIGH_3_봄이부시게 #엔플라잉 🌸🌸 pic.twitter.com/WQON1n0uqY
— Sky (@nfia_sky) May 19, 2019
Dropped by Coffeesmith @ Orchard Gateway in the morning! ^^ I hope everyone has a good day ahead and I especially hope that Junmyeon's day is full of love ♡♡ #HappySUHODay #KimJunCottonday@SUHOxSEHUN @Gemini_for_SUHO pic.twitter.com/XdJL4JAtnm
— 🍞 ฅ/ᐠ｡ᆽ｡ᐟ (@soldoutmochapan) May 22, 2019
Probably one of the most familiar forms of fan culture, fanchants are either introduced by the idols themselves through guide videos, or created by fans as a form of accompaniment to live performances on weekly music shows such as Music Bank, Music Core and Inkigayo.
Though they may not have the luxury of seeing their favourite idols perform every week, international fans still found a way to replicate the fanchants at concerts held in their country. In spite of the language barriers, it’s worth applauding that fanchants are always done in unison and with as much fervour as their Korean counterparts – which often gets reciprocated with deserved recognition from the idols themselves.
A common sight at concerts in Korea, these card-stock banners have also made their way to Singapore and are now an expected item to receive at every K-pop show here. Not to be mistaken as official merchandise, these goodies are designed and printed for concertgoers by fellow fans to hold up during a selected song in the setlist. This fan act has become such a norm in the scene that big names such as BTS, who were here in January as part of their Love Yourself tour, also took a picture with the slogans after the concert to show their appreciation.
— BTS_official (@bts_bighit) January 19, 2019
The unique selling point of a K-pop fandom is often found in the accompanying gear that fans bring for concerts, performances or fanmeets. Commonly referred to as lightsticks, each K-pop act usually has one designed in line with their personality and overall image, such as the pink hammer for BLACKPINK and the ARMY Bomb for BTS.
While it makes sense for Korean fans to own a lightstick due to the frequency of events they can attend, many would agree that it isn’t exactly a practical purchase for overseas fans. But that doesn’t stop them from purchasing these official lightsticks, which are usually available for purchase at merchandise booths during concerts. We can definitely see the appeal, however – not only does it form a collective bond with everyone in the audience, it also helps to create a unique and all-inclusive ambience that cannot be replicated in any other genres of the same setting. This is a concept that seems to only work best in the Korean pop sphere, and perhaps that’s the reason why it has become such a popular item to own amongst local K-pop fans.
If you’ve been to Seoul, you might have noticed the ad panels along the walkways of subway stations which are often rented out to celebrate an idol’s anniversary, birthday or any other special occasion. These locations have been unconsciously set aside for such commemorative displays, thus becoming somewhat of a tourist attraction amongst domestic and international K-pop fans.
Though this presentation of fan support has yet to gain traction overseas, it seems that Singapore fans have decided to give it a go by replicating it at our very own MRT station. Funded by a group of hardened BTS fans, the inaugural ad space at Dhoby Ghaut MRT station was taken over by a BTS banner to commemorate the group’s sixth anniversary that falls on 13 June. Though the news of this celebratory advertisement has garnered plenty of skeptical feedbacks from the general public, it’s safe to say that the negativity doesn’t damper the fans’ spirits. For them, it’s a space that they’ve paid for to celebrate a significant milestone in their idol’s journey, and like proud parents, it’s their way of showing their appreciation to the people they admire.
— JK is my euphoria 🐰🥕 (@jkookiety) June 7, 2019
When it comes to surprise fan projects, there’s really no one else who does it better than K-pop fans. In addition to the fanmade banners and fanchants, fans have also started to surprise their favourite idols with special video montages at the end of a concert. Organised and compiled by the local fanclub, these heartfelt videos serve as a message of gratitude to the idols who have greatly impacted their lives. Even if you’re a non-fan in the crowd, it’s impossible not to feel moved by the touching gesture.
In spite of the public negativity fans usually get from observers who are unaware of the deep-rooted fan culture, there is no stopping them from actively displaying their love for the artistes close to their hearts. Say what you will about K-pop fans, but this is one fandom that truly knows how to show their pride and dedication for their favourite acts.
At the end of the day, it’s a clear sign that the Hallyu power is still going strong, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.