This year was finally the year Americans caught up to what the rest of the world has known for years — K-Pop is the best pop. As a K-Pop fan myself, I watched with interest as KCon was a success for the fifth year in LA (and second year in New York); the boy group BTS’ (Bangtan Boys) new album, Wings, hit a record-for-Korean-pop number 26 on the Billboard 200 chart; former 2NE1 rapper CL played on The Late Late Show with James Corden after signing with Scooter Braun; and Tinashe
1. Terms of Endearment
Before you start on your journey to becoming a K-Pop superfan, let’s start with a vocabulary lesson:
Bias: Your favorite member of your favorite group. Example: I love all the boys in Seventeen, but Joshua Hong is my bias. I would take a bullet for him.
Leaving them locked in the basement/dungeon: When a label doesn't release anything by a group in a noticeable amount of time. Example: I love the girl group Miss A, but they’ve been locked in the dungeon for more than a year by their label, JYP Entertainment. I hope they escape soon, and make a comeback.
Hwaiting: As in, "Fighting!" It's an borrowed English word that means that the idol or group is going through adversity and succeeding. Example: Chanhyuk from Akdong Musician is doing military service as all young men in South Korea are required to do, but once completes his duty, you can bet AKMU will be
Aegyo: This word is basically the Korean version of the Japanese word “kawaii.” It’s the cute side of K-Pop, full of cutesy baby voices and coquettish facial expressions and gestures. Example: Sungmin is by far the most
2. The Art of Fanwars
K-Pop fans are nothing if not loyal. Fans of American groups sometimes hate other artists — Katy Kats hate Swifties, Barbies (Nicki Minaj fans) hate Smilers (Miley Cyrus fans), and Selenators hate Beliebers — but it's usually there’s drama behind it. In K-Pop, the Twice fandom (called “Once”) hates the I.O.I. fandom for no reason. Girls’ Generation’s Sones hate 2NE1’s Blackjacks. Big Bang’s V.I.P. hate Super Junior’s E.L.F.s (EverLasting Friends). This has been going on throughout K-Pop history: In the popular K-drama Reply 1997, the main character, Shi-won, loved her favorite boy group, H.O.T., so much that she got into a fight against a Sechs Kies fan, perfectly illustrating perhaps the most famous rivalry from the 1990s. Usually, the bands themselves are actually friends. And then there's the internal group hate over biases, called "
3. Your Bias Is Showing
Picking a favorite member of the group isn't necessarily unique to K-Pop. Justin Timberlake was pretty much the favorite member of ‘NSYNC. And everyone had a different
Sure, dances come out of American pop songs—the Superman, the Dougie, the dab—but it's usually just one or two steps, repeated. K-Pop groups now make entire "choreography videos" for fans to learn the whole dance—with incredibly difficult moves the entire song. There are heated dance competitions, with thousands of contestants. Some cover dance stars even end up as idols, like Lisa from BLACKPINK, who was discovered at a cover dance contest in Thailand.
5. View-counter Strike
K-Pop videos get incredibly high viewership, and one reason for that is netizens often camp out in the YouTube message boards and try to rally fellow fans to raise the
6. See the Lightsticks
K-Pop concerts make American pop concerts feel quaint. First off, they are very, very loud. Each group—and almost every hit song—has its own “
7. Touch and Go
In the U.S., there are meet and greets. Everyone remembers Avril Lavigne's awkward photo op. But it’s done a bit differently in K-Pop. Fans buy tickets on a tiered scale, and the highest tier gets to stand in a line and file by a table with the idols on the other side, high-
8. "Imagines" That
You can find Beyonce fanfic. You can find Fall Out Boy fanfic. But K-Pop fanfic (or "imagines" and “scenarios”) are legendary. For “imagines,” it’s usually just a picture of your bias, and some imagined innuendo he’s directing at the reader. In a “scenario,” there will be a prompt ("When you and a Big Bang member get snowed in with no power") and a fictional reaction for how each member of the group would romantically handle the situation with the reader.
9. Rice Is Nice
Fans donate rice to their favorite idol. This is then donated to feed homeless and disadvantaged people. Fans of
This is the total obsession. Literally translated to “private life,”
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