I am watching MAMA at this very moment as I am updating this post.
It’s been hyped up here in Korea for the past 2 weeks or so, showing highlights of past MAMA performances. Seeing all those old popular Kpop performances has gotten me all Kpop-y lately. I thought now would be the best time to post this interview.
These are the questions a Kpop fan from Germany asked me for her Korean studies paper. She wanted to write about how Kpop came to be the way it is today, with a special focus on the 90’s (gosh, I feel old!).
1. How did you get interested (in Kpop)?
I went over to my Korean best friend’s house in elementary school, and she showed me a video of H.O.T performing Candy. Kpop was new to me at the time, but I thought their outfit and dance was so cute, and honestly, the boys were just plain good looking!
2. When did you start to be a fan?
I had been listening to H.O.T’s 1st album (recorded on cassette tape!) for 3 whole years without finding out more about them. I had no Internet to access more information, no money or knowledge of where to buy their albums, and very little knowledge about the music industry.
So, I don’t really consider myself becoming a true ‘fan’ of Kpop until I finally got Internet and found out more and more about Korean music — I joined and participated very actively in forums, followed websites, read fanfics, and saved pictures of my favorite Kpop singers.
3. What was your fandom? Of whom your started to be a fan at first?
I’m not sure exactly what you mean by ‘my fandom’, but I spent most of my energies as an early Kpop fan indulging in their information, pictures, and videos online. I also started and ran a Korean lyrics website, Aheeyah.com, for about 10 years.
I started as a H.O.T fan, but once I touched the online wealth of Kpop, I quickly began following other artists as well, particularly SM Town artists.
4. What fascinated and touched you the most about your fandom?
The fact that even though fans may all be from different parts of the world, speak different languages, and come from totally different cultures, we can become one through a common interest and passion. I met many friends online as a Kpop fan, and even consider a few of them as some of my closest friends.
5. How did your fan-being develope? First year…second year…etc. How active were you? Did you only consume information or did you create content for other fans as well?
At first, I was only listening to H.O.T’s music for 3 full years. When I finally had Internet, I started browsing their fansites, fanfics, and pictures. Back then we didn’t have Youtube or online videos yet! I began joining forums and interacting with other fans. After being on the Internet for a little less than a year, I made my own H.O.T fansite. This site didn’t last too long as my interest for other artists was quickly expanding, so I made a new website where I could incorporate my love for all Kpop artists, which became the Korean lyrics website, Aheeyah.com. I romanized and translated lyrics while learning Korean at the same time from scratch, developed and managed a staff team of other eager and generous Kpop fans, and eventually opened up an active forums as well. However, about 6 or 7 years after opening Aheeyah, although I still liked Kpop, I was not as passionate about it as before and eventually closed down Aheeyah at about my 10 year mark.
Outside of my online activity as a Kpop fan, I also eventually realized my dream to work in Korea, and went to many Kpop concerts as well. In one year, I went to about 20 or more concerts. Sometimes, I would even go to two consecutively on each day of the weekend. It was a dream come true!
6. If the answer’s “yes” what content?
Asides from the Korean lyrics I romanized and translated for Aheeyah, I also developed an interest for graphics as well. I made graphic fan art based on my favorite singers and even ran graphic battles on Aheeyah’s forums. I also started (but never finished) a H.O.T fanfic, based on the members of H.O.T.
7. Was or is your fandom still a great part of your life? Did it change you and your interests? Did it even influence your future plans?
Kpop is still a big part of my life because even if I fall in and out of certain singers and groups, I will still always love music. Music is the food of my soul and I never go a single day without listening to it — while walking to school, sitting on the bus, doing the dishes, or putting myself to bed.
Consequently, because I love music, and because Kpop tends to be the only music I enjoy listening to, I always go back to the artists. It can be just the way a singer sang a certain line that is so mesmerizing, the lyrics of the song, or the choreography that pulls me to find out more about the artist or watch performances online. This is why I am always inevitably going back to being a fangirl, even if I pull out of it for some time.
Kpop definitely changed my life greatly — it decided my current profession and location. If it were not for Kpop, I would not have dreamt of living in Korea. If I had not dreamt of living in Korea, I would not have become an English teacher. I am currently on my 4th year of living and working in Korea, and will probably continue to do so for at least the next few years of my life.
I remember a kind of funny episode with just how much I give my life to Kpop, and that is after my first year of working in Korea, I had decided that I needed to find a job back home in Vancouver. However, shortly after leaving Korea, Big Bang, my favorite group at that time, announced their very first concert in Seoul. I had spent about a year in Vancouver and still couldn’t find a job that satisfied me, so I quickly decided that I must go back to Korea and see Big Bang in concert, and so signed another year contract of teaching with the first school that hired me and left the country in 2 week’s time! A bit of a mindless act, but I don’t regret it one bit. I actually cried when I got to see them in concert! I had already seen tons of concert before them, but at the time, I was so deeply into BigBang, having followed and watched their progress since debut, that I was so touched to watch them perform live. Also, I just loved Seungri like crazy!
Kpop also lead me to learn a new language — Korean. Over the 10 and more years of being a Kpop fan, I had been constantly pursuing the learning of the language. I am currently able to speak Korean quite well, and am able to hang out with Korean friends who speak absolutely no English at all.
1. From what point is a fan a fan?
When you want to do more for the artist than just gloat over their music, pictures, and videos. When you want to give back to the music community, make a fan out of others, and find some kind of release for your fandom. When you are drawing pictures of your favorite idol, uploading fan videos you made on Youtube, or translating their videos into your own language for others to understand. When you think it is important to support the artists and show your appreciation by purchasing their music rather than stealing it by downloading it for free off the Internet.
When the things you do are about the artists and other fans rather than just yourself.
2. What is being a fan about?
Support the artist you love and other fans who love them. Give back to the music community in the same way the artists give your own life meaning, interest, and fulfilment.
3. What do you think about South Korean fans? Are they different?
The beauty of music is that it can create fans who can become one because of their common interest. If someone loves H.O.T, they will love them in the same way. It doesn’t matter whether this fan is from Korea, Thailand, or Canada, they will love H.O.T in the same way as all other H.O.T fans, and in doing so can become one with a fan from another culture who speaks a totally different language and grew up in a completely different culture.
4. What do you think about Kpop fans? Do they act different from other fans?
I think that in general, fans are fans. Whether it is a kpop fan, jrock fan, or English country music fan, all fans essentially want the same thing — to listen to their artist’s music, share it with others, and express their passion.
Kpop in my Ears
In the likeness of the ramyun’s bubbling broth, vibrant sauce, and spicy hotness,
Kpop, I will continue to <3 you with the same vivre, brightness, and color.
As long as the ramyun continues to boil, and I have a need to eat,
As long as you continue to sound, I will hungerly hear
Ramyun in my stomach, and
Kpop in my ears
Haha I wrote that corny poem and took the picture for a ‘Show your material love for Kpop’ contest held at Aheeyah long ago, where you had to show some physical form of your love for Kpop. Some ppl took a picture of all the posters in their room, another folded cranes and put them into the world Kpop, etc.
Now that I’m mentioning it, it seems like a good idea to hold this contest again for some Kpop CDs as prizes…
PS. Sorry it’s been such a long time since updates! My parents came over to visit me last weekend in Korea for a few days, and I’ve just been busy cleaning my house and enjoying my time with them when they were here.
After having 3 people in my tiny studio apartment, when I go back to being alone, it feels so much more empty and quiet T__T
I know lots of ppl call me ‘lucky’ and say I’m living their dream to be teaching/living in Korea. It was my dream too, and I am very thankful I was able to finally achieve it. However, this is the downside — being away from my family, friends, and home.
Anyways, I will shoot some Lookbook looks for sure this weekend! ^^