Beyond lightsticks and photocards, K-pop fans mobilize for Halalan 2022

More than entertainment, K-pop is ripe for mobilizing fans to stand up for a fair and peaceful election.

Election season is typically greeted by a line of campaign posters on sidewalks, flyers, and billboards that boast achievements and promises by each candidate. Nowadays, online spaces are also taken over by similar advertisements as they have become an essential tool for campaigning.

Social media has effectively connected users with similar interests—allowing people to spark dialogue and to form communities in support of their chosen candidate. Many have maximized social media to push for their bids, but none as jubilant and as active as the web-based community of local K-pop fans. With their wide reach to empower their members to vote wisely, they strive for a perfect visual for the country’s future.

Stanning for a cause

Social media’s expansive yet divisive nature makes it challenging to mobilize people toward a common goal. But one group in particular—KPOP STANS 4 LENI—has made airways for their solidarity in supporting presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo’s platforms. Externals head Majo* shares that the Facebook page was created spontaneously after Robredo announced her bid for presidency on October 7 of last year. As of writing, it has reached more than 19,000 followers on Facebook. “The numbers just grew and grew,” she adds. “It was very fast and very organic.”

Aside from their main goal of promoting Robredo’s platforms, they also emphasize the intersections between K-pop and civic participation, arguing that being a K-pop fan is inherently political. “The way na gumagawa tayo ng projects, nag-eemail tayo kapag we feel like there’s an injustice against [an idol]…that’s actually us participating in collective action and movement,” she furthers.

(The way we do projects, and send emails to stand up against injustice against an idol…)

KPOP STANS 4 LENI member Miqua* believes that utilizing this collaborative potential into participation in politics will also make them responsible in fulfilling their civic duties as citizens. The group encourages fans to redistribute their energy for admiring K-pop idols into political campaigns, “People who hear this–[like] kids who are probably first time voters–can realize, ‘Oh, what I do is not so far from being politically active. That’s something I can step [into],’” says Miqua. 

But even before the elections, K-pop groups and their fandoms have been using their influence to enact social change. Riana Santos, a devout ARMY and third-year nursing student from the University of Santo Tomas, cites BTS’ LOVE MYSELF campaign with UNICEF in 2017 as an example, “These [efforts] continuously inspire their fans to [advocate for] the same [campaigns] and even match their donations in hopes to make a difference together.”

Meanwhile, Naomi Perez (LIM-CW, ‘20), admin of the DLSU/CSB ReVeluv Group, notices how the cries of K-pop fandoms and political groups in vocalizing protests are similar, “Sometimes it’s [being outspoken against what is] the wrong, sometimes it’s [being vocal] for good reasons, and that’s a lot like politics.” By providing avenues for people to speak up on various matters, social media ensures that opinions will be heard—even polarizing ones.

Double-edged sword

However, despite the genuine intentions these groups have, rough encounters online are ineludible. The most apparent challenge for most moderators are online trolls—which both Naomi and Miqua claimed are more common on Facebook. Naomi points out that the impingement of trolls is one of the disadvantages of being a moderator, “It’s hard to minimize [these interactions because] a lot of [these] trolls [only aim] to keep posting negative stuff.”

Moderators commonly encounter malicious and stereotypical remarks against K-pop fans. “[People dismiss or infantilize us] na parang hindi namin alamyung ginagawa namin. Or the usual ‘K-pop is gay’ [remark],” Majo shares. Consequently, she divulges that their group found the need to carefully surveil the members and volunteers to prevent these attacks from happening, “[We] need to be extra aware [when] we interact with [people]. Is it a real account? Is it a troll?”

(People dismiss or infantilize us as if we don’t know what we’re doing.)

Apart from the influx of trolls, K-pop stans also battle the surge of misinformation within their circles. Miqua finds that misinformation usually burgeons on TikTok, stating, “[That’s where] a lot of fake news lives [and where] a lot of [pro-Bongbong Marcos] propaganda lives.” Similarly, Riana warns, “A lot of information you post online can easily be manipulated, twisted, and turned against you.” For the moderators, it is demanding to challenge and correct the established beliefs of people—mainly from the camp of Marcos Jr.—if it is rooted in misinformation.

That is why K-pop stans aim to continuously post-factual information while engaging in healthy discourse. Riana affirms, “I try my best to disseminate information and raise awareness [about political matters] because in my simple way, I want to make a difference.”

The Philippine comeback

The K-pop community proves that individuals and groups could mobilize for a goal greater than themselves because, “there’s really strength in numbers,” Naomi points out. They prove that politics does not have to be intimidating or feared, as long as a group sheds light on choosing candidates who have sound morals and feasible platforms and explains why these are the causes they should rally behind. For Naomi, the best thing to employ the derived influence from K-pop is through amicable and effective communication. “I extend compassion to people that I know have a big role in the elections in terms of politics,” she imparts. “So one of my plans to keep the influence is to talk with everyday Filipinos.” For her, this would aid in getting more people to support the same politicians she does.

Meanwhile, Miqua shares how their group was able to reach the youth in recognizing their crucial role in the upcoming elections. “At first, I [felt] like they were shy to express na si VP Leni ‘yung gusto nila. Now that merong KPOP STANS 4 LENI, they’re more encouraged to be vocal [about their support],” Miqua shares.

(At first, I felt like they were shy to express that they wanted to support VP Leni.)

K-pop is just one of the many spaces empowering voters and non-voters alike toward meaningful and radical elections. People must take advantage of their platforms—whether online or not—and their democratic rights to speak up and assert what kind of leader the Filipino people deserve. Especially since this national election presents an opportunity to see how Filipinos can shape the political climate for the next six years, everyone’s participation is crucial.

“It’s important for people, regardless of our niches, to express ourselves [and our political stand] because [it will affect] our quality of life,” Majo says. The stakes are high for the next set of leaders because they will dictate how they will make an impact on the improvement of our lives—just like, to some extent, how K-pop influences many to make a difference.

*Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms.

Anakin Loewes Garcia

By Anakin Loewes Garcia

Laurence Pontejos

By Laurence Pontejos

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