Monday, March 26, 2012

Issue 101: On Sasaeng Fans

I think more and more K-Pop international fans are voicing their worries on the issue regarding sasaeng fans. I'll be writing an entry about my experiences with sasaeng fans from a foreigner reporter's perspective. I think international fans who are in Korea have different experiences too.

Origin of the word
Coming from the Korean word sasaenghwal (사생활- privacy/private life) and fans. Just like English, Koreans are fond of shortening long words and titles so it became sasaeng+fans= sasaeng fans. Literally it would mean fans who invade private lives (personal, family...everything) of the celebrities they "idolized."
Here's a short documentary by tvN-ENews.




Where do you see them?
Of course there are no labels that say we are sasaeng fans and we are 'normal' fans, you just feel and see them, I guess. Basically, they are always present in almost if not all events of their idols. And from what I observed they target locations where celebrity vans pass. Sometimes when I do interviews at the entertainment company's office or hair and beauty shops, it's common to see sasaeng fans in groups or even alone waiting outside these buildings.

What do you think of them?
Well, I think sasaeng fans have grades or levels too. Some sasaeng fans are relatively 'harmless' while some are going extreme. Remember this is from a point of view of a reporter not a celebrity. I've seen many of them already but they've never really hurt or even asked me what I did inside the hair shop or the entertainment company when I finish an interview. I've talked to some of them before in a concert and they were just concentrated on what their idols are doing and they didn't even mind me. hahaha. Although there was one case where a fan of my friend who's an actor sent me scary tweets, which led me to block him/her and even made me unfollowed my friend too. And, by the way, believe it or not, I think there are also international fans who are sasaeng fans or who would qualify as sasaeng fans themselves. Afterall, there is no formal organization that declares you a sasaeng fan.
Anyway, to continue, I also remember one group I interviewed before told me a story that they have fans waiting outside their dorm almost all the time even overnight. After a show, these fans usually follow them up to their dorms. I think most celebrities are already used to this kind of lifestyle and that they have "countermeasures" prepared already. Even trainees have sasaeng fans already, so somehow, they are already quite familiar with this kind of lifestyle. However, I definitely say that the JYJ-TVXQ thing is really an extreme account of a sasaeng fan case. The urine, poop, underwear, menstruation blood, duplication of door keys, trespassing when the idols are out or inside sleeping and more!  This is plain stalking and insane!
In the "Korean fan culture or tradition" if we view it in the market perspective, sasaeng fans occupy a spot that could somehow signify an idol group's popularity. It's like "the more sasaeng fans the more popular the group is." According to the interview made by KBS with a sasaeng fan, popular groups have hundreds to thousand sasaeng fans. Probably like paparazzi versions but ala Korean style. They could create controversial stories and probably make stars gain attention or could also lead to failure of their careers.
Anyway, I feel sad about this issue. Sasaeng fans don't just take private lives of these celebrities, they are also making their own lives suffer. What's gonna happen to them in the future if they keep on doing these things. Something should be done to stop this.
Fandom is supposed to be fun. It's supposed to unite people who share the same fandom/s regardless of age or which area you come from.

Note: the video above mentioned about international fans. Recently, more and more TV programs, concerts, events are inviting international fans to be part of the audience. That is why, SOMETIMES, compared to Korean fans, international fans are prioritized. I've heard many Korean fans don't like it. Not just sasaeng fans. I've heard some of them saying it's unfair and that it's weird because they themselves in their own country could not see their celebrities because of the international fans etc. I am not sure if there are incidents already where an international fan got attacked but I hope it's not gonna happen. If you happen to be reading this please don't be scared. ^^ There are many Korean fans who are really nice and sweet too. They'd even help you with the process and all. 

4 comments:

  1. this is really bizarre, don't their parents know what they're doing?

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  2. I don't know where they get their money to stalk.. I mean of them are still students, so they probably use their allowances and might do part-time work.. I agree when you mentioned about the future of this folks.. and I also agree that most fans are kind and fun to be with, based on my experience :)

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  3. I'm an international fan of K-pop, these sasaengs really scare me, but thanks to all the info I'm reading I hopefully wont get conned/used and abused by them. Although I must say, if they lay a finger on me I have no problem defending myself... freaky people.

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