You’ve seen the music videos when browsing through the channels. You’ve heard some of the catchy beats playing in your favorite café. Maybe you even have a friend who’s been transformed into a screaming fan, one of hundreds of thousands in the country. One thing’s for sure: K-Pop is no longer just a phase, and is certainly not going anywhere anytime soon.
The universal language
Some might scratch their heads at the idea of people becoming attached to songs they hardly even comprehend, but several K-Pop enthusiasts have been doing it for the better part of a decade. In fact, some fans within DLSU admit that they’ve been listening to and keeping track of K-Pop since as early as the 6th grade.
When asked about the attraction to the genre despite the language barrier, one fan quotes CL from girl group 2NE1. “Music has no language,” Ashley* says rather simply. The answer rings true, as Filipinos have always been enthralled with other Asian cultures. “I’ve always thought that it’s a waste to not appreciate whatever a culture has to offer just because of certain factors like [the] language barrier,” Sam* shares.
Another fan mentions the talent and the, ahem, ‘face value’ of these Korean stars, whom Adelle* calls “multi-talented eye candy”. On a more serious note, Adelle shares, “The marketing strategies [that groups] employ are nothing short of brilliant, from visuals to production.” It seems that K-Pop’s overall packaging has mastered the art of creating quality songs with stylish choreography and stunning production values to boot.
A look into the culture
If you were a newcomer looking to get into the K-pop fandom, you would have a huge variety of media to start following. Korean TV shows, which are mostly hosted live, are a start—some shows have a cycle of promotions, with different groups performing to attract viewers and potential fans. Variety shows are another example, showcasing competitions of ‘trainees’ that end with seven or so members forming a group, resembling the journey One Direction had on X Factor. As soon as they seal the deal, the newly formed band members are trained to sing and dance for at least two years, along with other celebrity activities like hosting and acting.
There’s plenty to follow online as well. Some enthusiasts who actually understand the language often upload translations for the rest of the fan base, meaning you can keep up to date with all the important news and interviews surrounding your favorite K-Pop groups and idols.
Some hardcore fans get albums shipped at the time of their release straight from Korea. These investments are sacred—some fans only store the albums but never open them, much like a collector of rare figurines. One Lasallian follower, Sara*, shares a story of how she splurged around Php 40,000 on albums, mentioning how some albums have different covers with different members. She goes on to describe how some of the purchased albums included photo cards—think polaroids, but featuring yourfavorite K-Pop star instead. These are eyed for their rarity, and some are even signed.
What’s a fan base without the fan clubs? K-Pop enthusiasts in the Philippines are devoted, planning meet-ups that host celebrations of the different Korean idols, providing merchandise and giveaways. Venues vary from universities to different cafés, but each event promises a good chance to meet like minded fans—a welcome opportunity when most of your friends don’t understand the fascination with the genre.
Something interesting about K-Pop fans is the tight bond they share with the bands, with each group having their own unique set of avid followers. Girls’ Generation’s fan base is referred to as ‘SONE’, which stands for ‘So One’ because the band and its fans are one. GFriends’ fans are called ‘Buddy’, while Super Junior’s are called ‘ELF’, which stands for ‘Everlasting Friends’. Corny, maybe, but this is how the different groups express their appreciation for their different supporters, who have tenaciously followed and cheered them on since their respective debuts.
A devoted fan base
K-Pop conventions are common occurrences before a concert. Producers of K-Pop bands contact fan clubs, letting them participate by practicing ‘fan chants’ and often hosting contests with free tickets up for grabs. These contests can range from video and dance competitions to ‘cover groups’, which are fan impersonators of actual K-Pop groups. After all, imitation is the best form of flattery, or so the saying goes.
There are several other ways through which fans display their devotion. Some enthusiasts like to buy gifts for their favorite visiting stars, offering just about what you would expect from Filipino fans: scrapbooks, food, and… Barongs.
K-Pop fans also purchase light sticks—but not just any light sticks. These have the bands’ names and logos on them, uniquely designed by companies like YG. They may be much more expensive than the usual glowstick, but every diehard K-Pop fan gets a rush lighting them during concerts.
Perhaps the extreme, however, that certain fans go to is actually learning the Korean language. It may seem absurd for outsiders, but for avid fans, it seems the next logical step towards continuing to enjoy the K-Pop culture. Kris* shares that, besides learning the language, she flew to Korea three times just to, “Keep [the] K-Pop experience completely special and unique.”
Is it just us? Not quite. Alice, a Korean student taking up International Studies, interjects that Koreans are actually in awe of how we Filipinos are musically inclined and are able to belt out high notes. She also adds that at some point, Koreans were obsessed with Freddie Aguilar’s Anak, that they even went as far as to translate the song in their own language.
Diehard K-pop fans aren’t just simply dedicated to the genre. They make up a community that believes in the daebak quality and talent K-Pop provides, continuing to support them in any way possible.
Considering the idea of plunging into the Korean wave? Hwaiting! But just remember that there’s no harm in going back to one’s roots; plug your earphones on and listen to what OPM has to offer. Whether or not you’ve reached your verdict when it comes to K-Pop or OPM, the power of music knows no bounds.
* Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms.