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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!
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.
IFANS: Mapping K-pop’s International Fandom is a scholarly research project that examines global fan attitudes and activities through surveys, collection of information on online communities and analysis of websites. Crystal S. Anderson, PhD (Elon University) is the Principal Investigator of the studies and Curator of the iFans project site.
|Kim Bum Soo|
Origin of Fan Name
Official Fan Color:
- Melon Music Award, R&B/Ballad
- Kim Bum Soo “겟 올라잇” Show, January 2012
It Will Pass
Sun Setting In My Heart
I Want to See You (Missing You)
By Crystal S. Anderson, PhD and Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.
RIVENDELL (AHMN) – E.L.F.s have started to gather for Super Junior’s Super Show 4, to be held in the biggest tree in the elven city. Armed with their sapphire blue lightsticks, legions of fans look forward to cheering on the group at the history-making show. Super Junior is the first Kpop group to play the Rivendell Celebrian Arena, and rumor has it that SM Entertainment is currently contemplating additional dates in Mordor and Minas Tirith, with the possibility of holding a fanmeet on the Pelennor Fields.
But don’t log on to Ticketmaster just yet. Aren’t you a little skeptical? You should be, because news reporting in the Kpop world sometimes looks just as improbable. In our investigation of all things Hallyu, KPK has noticed several trends in the way information about Kpop is distributed. This article is about how Kpop fans are informed, or in some cases, misinformed, by coverage of Kpop. This is not about any one outlet or blogger, and the examples and photos within this article are used to illustrate a trend. They should not be construed as judgements on how individual sites choose to create or distribute kpop news.
|Meaning of Name||If turned sideways, 8 is “infinity”|
|Debut||August 25, 2007|
|Label||Big Hit Entertainment; United Asia Management|
|Origin of Fan Name|
|Fan Club Website(s)|
Official Fan Color
Individual Fan Names
- Winning competitors on the first season of MBC’s Show Survival, 2007.
Close That Lip
The End is Coming
Goodbye My Love
I Love You
Music is My Life (Part 2)
Forget About Love and Sing
| 8Eight – Mini- Album (June 21, 2011) (Source Music)
|The Bridge – 1st Mini-Album (May 12, 2010) (Loen Entertainment)
|Golden Age (March 3, 2009) (Loen Entertainment)
|Infinity (March 3, 2008) (Sony & BMG, SBMG Korea)
|The First (September 6, 2007) (EMI Music)
That’s what a lot of netizens say when offering an opinion on new or returning idol groups with extremely large numbers. They may have a point, but I also think that there is something to be gained from mega Kpop group.
While fans are always noting the sheer number of idol groups that debut, they seem to be especially sensitive to groups with large numbers. Five members may be ideal, but when numbers start to climb beyond that, as it does with groups such as U-Kiss (seven members), T-ara (seven members), Infinite (seven members) , ZE:A (nine members) and After School (nine members), people get antsy. Given their success, fans seem to have accepted the large numbers in SNSD and Super Junior, but that was not easily achieved. So I wasn’t surprised at the reaction to newer, larger Kpop groups. Something seemed to snap in fans when Golden Goose Entertainment announced plans for a Japanese debut for APeace (formerly Double B/21) back in March. With 21 members in tow (yes, 21!), some viewed APeace as a science experiment gone horribly wrong, one that created a monster with the numbers of Super Junior and SNSD combined. Kpop fans flooded forums with their displeasure at the high number of members. Some wondered how all 21 of them get paid. Others complained about not being able to see them all. And still others lamented having to learn all of their names.
I have to confess, I like APeace. I like their single, Lover Boy. I find it to be a great dance song. But what can prepare you for the music video for Lover Boy? It makes me absolutely giddy, and it has everything to do with the fact that there are eventually 21 of them dancing on the screen at one time!
Maybe I like this video so much because it brings back memories of being in a marching band. I especially like the move at :41, which I’m sure will be come the international sign for “baby girl.” However, beyond my potential fangirl-y reaction to APeace, I do think that they learn from some of the challenges that other mega groups like Super Junior face, and, as a result, could make it work.
Mega groups mean mega profits for agencies, as they can strategically place members in multiple places at once, so it makes sense from their point of view. Clearly, SM Entertainment did not foresee how attached fans would get to the initial membership of a mega group like Super Junior. Now, before we get started, I like Super Junior, so I want all the ELFs to take a deep breath. I am not hating on Super Junior, but there are some things that we all know to be true. For instance, all was well in Super Junior land back in 2007 until SM Entertainment started making noises about adding more members, like Henry, to the already super large Super Junior. This prompted some fans to take action to protect the membership. Asianbite.com featured a story about fan protests over the plan. One fan stated, “We do not want Henry or anyone else to be added in Super Junior. We want Super Junior to be a safe 13-membered group.” I believe that some of this anxiety came from the fact that fans perceived the membership of Super Junior to be set, and that the addition of Henry was not something they signed up for. As a fan, you would wonder whether or if the additions would stop. SM Entertainment could just keep adding members, with no end in sight. However, APeace avoids this by hitting you with 21 members up front. 21 is a large number, so if you accept that APeace has 21 members, you are not likely to have anxiety about the possibility for additional members. If they added more members (gasp!), would it really be that big of a deal?
The creation of subgroups by SM Entertainment to capitalize on as many markets as possible contributes to even more anxiety around the mega group. Hey, when you are working with 10 to 13 people, you have options. But sometimes these subgroups cause challenges of their own, especially for new fans. I encountered Super Junior M before I encountered Super Junior, so I didn’t understand the relationship between the subgroups and the main group. I could not understand why I couldn’t find Henry or Zhou Mi in what I have come to call Super Junior Proper. And don’t get me started on the guest status of Sungmin and Eunhyuk in Super Junior M right now. Are there more subgroups on the horizon? One never knows with SM Entertainment. However, APeace has the foresight to establish their subgroups up front. According to their official website, we can look forward to APeace Lapis, APeace Jade and APeace Onyx, three subgroups with seven members each. This move avoids fan disappointment and confusion.
The number of members and the subgroups are not the only things that causes anxiety in fans in relation to a mega group. One of my issues with Super Junior is the presence of the membership of Super Junior at any given time. When a news story runs that Super Junior will make an appearance, can you really be sure who is going to show up? How often do you see all of them together? Yes, we know that Kangin has a good excuse, as he is doing his military service, but when was the last time you saw Kibum? Is he even still in this group? I miss him. This inability to predict which members of the group participate in group activities is in part linked to the busy schedules of individual members, and this is a problem for me. I was introduced to Super Junior as a group. I kinda expect them to act like the other groups I like. You know, to be together, to show up, together. Sometimes, it just seems that they are individual artists who get together once in a while and make music. However, I don’t even expect APeace to function as a group in that way because they are rolling 21 deep. I’m not looking for them to have a deep bond with each other. I don’t know APeace, but I don’t feel that I’m expected to know them individually in this 21-member unit. Yes, I vaguely remember them introducing themselves, but who remembers that? I remember them being introduced as a 21-member group, so I don’t invest in their group dynamic, as I did with SS501 or SHINee. APeace, with its large numbers, lowers your expectations about the interaction among the members. I see them more as individual artists who come together to form the mini-nation that is APeace every once and a while. So if fans rarely expect to see them all together, then they are less likely to be disappointed.
I guess this is why I’m not up in arms about APeace. I know I won’t convince a lot of you that bigger is better, but that’s not my goal. What I am saying is that creating a viable model for a large Kpop group is worth exploring. Whatever you think of APeace or any other mega group coming down the turnpike, it takes a certain amount of expertise to promote a mega group. Somebody had to arrange 21 voices on a track. Somebody had to choreograph a dance for 21 people, and I think APeace pulls it off. They are so in sync, a friend of mine thought it was a special effect. Somebody had to film 21 people in motion. There is something to be said for the people who work behind the scenes and for the members of mega groups themselves. You try doing anything with 21 people.
“Super Junior Fans Protest Against Addition of New Member,” Asianbite.com
Photo Credits: thehottestprimadonna
APeace, Lover Boy, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvUuSfXlA7I
All right, time to talk about Rain and Sun Jung‘s treatment of the Almighty Godfather of Modern Kpop. I will try my best to point out both the good and the bad in this chapter, but unfortunately there is a lot more of the bad than the good. Let’s begin.