Like Vs. Love: Research Reveals Degrees of Attachment Among K-pop Fans

K-pop is well-known for the introduction of new groups, even while established groups continue to thrive. But are fans fickle in their K-pop choices? Do they abandon older groups for newer groups? Research suggests that while K-pop fans readily accept new groups, they have a deeper connection with veteran groups. These conclusions are based on data collected online through the Hallyu Korean Music Survey, part of a five-year study on international K-pop fans by Crystal S. Anderson.

The survey asks respondents to check all of the K-pop groups they like from a pre-determined list. This list emerged from earlier research that revealed a group of K-pop artists that global fans consistently identified as their favorites.  Out of 5099 responses from 282 respondents, the following groups represent the top 10:

  1. BigBang
  2. 2NE1
  3. SHINee
  4. Super Junior
  5. f(x)
  6. BEAST/B2ST
  7. MBLAQ
  8. B.A.P
  9. SNSD/Girls’ Generation
  10. TVXQ/DBSK

Respondents were then asked to name any group they liked not found in the predetermined list.  Out of 1229 responses from 237 respondents, the top 10 responses were:

  1. EXO
  2. Block B
  3. BTOB
  4. B1A4
  5. VIXX
  6. NU’EST
  7. Teen Top
  8. BTS
  9. SISTAR
  10. Secret

Respondents were then asked to list their three favorite K-pop groups. Out of 788 responses from 268 respondents, the top 10 responses were:

  1. BigBang
  2. SHINee
  3. EXO
  4. Super Junior
  5. Infinite
  6. 2NE1
  7. SNSD/Girls’ Generation
  8. JYJ
  9. MBLAQ
  10. TVXQ

This data suggests that K-pop fans are receptive to newer K-pop male groups. Nearly all of the groups not included in the predetermined list are groups that debuted after 2010. Female groups continue to lag behind, probably due to the fact that most K-pop groups that debut are male. However, established K-pop groups dominate when fans are asked to identify their favorite K-pop groups.  This list mirrors the predetermined list, which suggests that the longer the group has been active, more connected fans feel to the group.  Infinite has become a group that fans consistently say they like, replacing a group like BEAST/B2ST, which may have been out of the spotlight for a period of time. The notable exception is EXO, who fans identify as a group that they live and a favorite group. EXO debuted in 2011, and has managed to create a level of fan loyalty equal to more established K-pop groups.

So, what does this mean? It seems to suggest that fans of K-pop make choices about the degree of their fan loyalty based on the longevity of the group. K-pop group longevity (or how long a group has been active) makes a difference to fans. This has long-term implications for how K-pop continues to be promoted. Agencies who focus on churning out new groups without cultivating the fandom may see less of an impact than agencies who take time to establish a long-term fan relationship between artists and fans. Such activities may include creating the fan name so that fans can identify with a particular group, creating behind-the-scene shows where fans can see artists when they are not performing, and creating other opportunities for artists to remain in the public eye, such as endorsements and television appearances.

Images:

“BigBang, Love Song (Korea.com),” Hallyu Harmony, accessed July 14, 2014, http://kpop.omeka.net/items/show/347.

“EXO, Promo Dark Sky (seoulbeats),” Hallyu Harmony, accessed July 14, 2014, http://kpop.omeka.net/items/show/369.

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Like Vs. Love: Research Reveals Degrees of Attachment Among K-pop Fans by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

2NE1: Music for Anyone

2NE1

2NE1

2NE1 burst onto the music scene in 2009 with their debut song Fire. The group’s name means “New Evolution of the 21st Century,” showing that they want to add their unique style to the existing pop music industry. After making a name for themselves in Korea with their popular songs, the group also debuted in Japan with their hit single I am the Best. The four girls aim to show the world their music for everyone. . . . Click here to continue reading on KPOPIANA.

iFans Update: What Fans Think….about 2NE1!

2NE1, Falling in Love Concept

2NE1, Falling in Love Concept

As part of the ongoing project that is iFans: Mapping K-pop’s International Fandom, I have been working on the fan responses to Case Studies surveys. Click here to read about what 2NE1 fans think about the group’s significance in K-pop as well as an in-depth interview with a BlackJack!

iFans Case Studies Status Update

Infographic based on data collected by Crystal S. Anderson as part of the iFans research study

Infographic based on data collected by Crystal S. Anderson as part of the iFans research study

If you keep with research on K-pop, you may be aware of the iFans: Mapping Kpop’s International Fandom project.  The surveys that make up the qualitative studies seek to understand how the fandoms differ from one another and their relationship to the groups they support. K-pop fans know that the fandoms are unique. Because they have detailed knowledge of the groups they support, they provide a unique perspective on the appeal of their respective groups. Too often, commentators make assumptions about K-pop fans, while the iFans studies goes to the source: the fans.

As the chart above shows, fans of 2NE1 and BigBang have participated the most in the surveys, while fans of Shinhwa and Aziatix have participated the least.   Other groups with high participation rates include SHINee and TVXQ, while other groups with low participation rates include Epik High and f(x).

These participation rates are interesting, because groups like Super Junior and Girls’ Generation have very active global fandoms, yet those numbers are not reflected in participation rates.  Rates may not reflect all fans, just fans who are likely to take (and complete) a survey.  Participation rates may be affected by the activity of the groups.

The iFans Case Studies survey is still active, and now, individuals can take the survey for multiple or  individual groups.

Now that a good deal of data has been collected, look for new research reports on what K-pop fans say about their favorite groups!

Pure Love f(x): Feminisms and K-pop Girl Groups

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Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

Associate Professor, Elon University (U.S.)

K-pop girl groups tend to be described as sexy, fierce or cute.  Some suggest that images of fierceness encourage girls to be empowered, while images of cuteness take away their agency.  However, responses by fans of f(x), a K-pop female group, suggest that fans prefer unique and diverse images of women.

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