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OP-ED, Special Features

[OP-ED] The unending conflict between international fans and Korean fans

By jennywill   Sunday, July 14, 2013   162,044   1,722   770
EXO,Super-Junior,super-junior-m,henry,zhoumi

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In an ideal world, Korean fans and international fans would get along perfectly well, respect each other and not even categorize each other as 'K-fans' and 'i-fans' but just simply as 'fans'. Sadly, we don't live in an ideal world, and i-fans and K-fans clash all the time. Now, before I continue, I know not everyone is like this and I'm just viewing this from a more broad overhead perspective.


When I check Korean news or blog sites and read some of the comments and posts, some of the commentators seem to look down on i-fans. But that's not to say that the condescension is just a one way street. When I look through Tumblr and Twitter, I see just as much i-fans, if not more, hating on K-fans. 


A recent event I remember happening is when a certain international EXO fan went to Korea and filmed EXO fans. In the video (not the original which was taken down), she was told by a Korean fan (you can barely hear it above the crowd's noise), and then got slapped by a Korean fan in line because she didn't hear / understand what was being asked, and she didn't stop. It was a clash between two people, not between two nationalities, but the comments on the YouTube video quickly made it into a battle between two races. I saw Korean comments claiming that they felt like they were animals in a zoo because a foreigner was filming them, when it clearly had to do more with what goes on in a fandom, not what goes on in a country.


SEE ALSO: 10 signs you're a K-drama addict


After that, the most recent clash I saw happening is the stance of different groups on Super Junior-M members. At first, I didn't really consider it a difference between i-fans and K-fans, until I started looking through posts on Korean blogs that claimed only i-fans said to accept Zhoumi and Henry as 'full' Super Junior members, but that they had no right to claim any of these things because they're just i-fans and they don't buy anything.


This personally offended me because for full disclosure, I own pretty much every single official merchandise Super Junior has ever put out. I might sound like a crazy fangirl, but I have different versions of the same album and then buy the repackage (and its different versions) when that comes out. On top of that, I have a Bugs account and I legitimately buy all the music, so I buy the same album 3-4 (sometimes even more) times over. It's not just albums, but just all official merchandise. Perhaps I'm an outlier, but to be told that I'm not allowed to have opinions on how my favorite group does because I don't buy anything... well, that made me a little upset, but it also made me realize that the rift between i-fans and K-fans can sometimes be bigger than I thought it would be.


Why does this rift exist? Mostly it's because of the cultural differences. What most Koreans see as obvious doesn't seem too obvious to i-fans, and what a lot of Korean fans see as a big deal doesn't seem like a big deal at all to i-fans. One of the points that Korean and international fans clash the most on is the topic of being conservative, with Koreans saying some clothes are too short and too revealing while to Western fans, it's something they see on a daily basis in Western media.


Another point that's hard to understand for i-fans is the topic of army enlistment. Risking running off topic, I'm going to take this time to explain why enlistment is necessary, at least at its most basics. Korea's had mandatory service since January 1950, after Korea was divided into North and South. Mandatory enlistment is not as rare as a lot of Americans think it is - actually, our next-door-neighbor Mexico also has mandatory enlistment. Although it's a bit different from the conscription in Korea, it's kind of a necessity for countries under some form of threat to have it. In Mexico's case, the 'threat' is sharing a wide border with the United States. Taiwan also has one since their independence from China. Korea's threat? None other than North Korea.


In fact, enlistment is a huge deal in Korea. Enlistment can have a huge impact in Korea, and the person who felt the biggest impact is none other than Yoo Seung Jun, who was at the height of his career when he fled to USA and then to China. He's pretty much hated all across Korea. While it's true that enlistment can also have positive effects in the case of Hyun Bin or Yoo Seung Ho, a lot of i-fans hate it when their idols go to the army because it means 20 plus months of not seeing their favorite stars.


Of course, it goes in the other direction, too, and the biggest example I can think of is the terrible instances of blackface. Perhaps because they don't really know the history behind how offensive it is, some Koreans find such skits to be funny. Comedians do it. Yesung and Kikwang have done it, and most recently, 'Running Man' also featured blackface. The idea is simply ludicrous to i-fans, but to some K-fans it's not racially offensive at all. Perhaps, due to lack of exposure to the negativity?


A lot of it is also because some K-fans don't like 'sharing' their idols with international fans. Korea 

can be incredibly possessive of their artists and also a bit xenophobic (like every country is), and they're immediately wary of fans from the outside. Their hesitation against i-fans is kind of paradoxical, because they all boast about how big their group's international fandom is, and how big of a Hallyu star they are - and yet they don't actually like the i-fans, the actual force behind Hallyu. If you really want it to be a popular cultural export, let it spread. The farthest they'll go into admitting i-fans is only for Japanese and Chinese fans, and they scoff at pretty much outside of this.


One problem is that Korean labels have a tendency to sometimes look at 'Asia' as the 'world'. Most of the time, artists go on Asia tours (these used to be called World Tours until artists started to branch out into the Americas, Australia, and Europe). So if the labels see Korea-Japan-China as pretty much the whole world, the K-fans don't really have a reason to see other countries' fans as "real" fans. 


Of course, that's not to say that all i-fans and K-fans are at each other's throats all the time. In my own fangirling experience, I've met various k-fans who were more than happy to help out i-fans get some merchandise that was only available in Korea, or help i-fans make sure their gifts are sent out to idols. 


What would be nice is if all K-fans could recognize that i-fans love their artists just as much as they do. In the end, what both K-fans and i-fans need is better understanding of each other. I understand that's much easier said than done, but I'm optimistic and here's hoping we can all get along.



  1. EXO
  2. Super Junior
  3. Super Junior-M
  4. Henry
  5. Zhoumi
  6. op-ed


unconventionatt Thursday, August 29, 2013

This was a good post. I like this post.

raveeeh_sama Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Can't we all just shut up for once and be equal? At least try to. We all deserve kpop EQUALLY. ;

jonghyunsdreamgirl Monday, July 22, 2013

I wish we all could just be called Kpop fans and call it a day.

-Love a Kpop fan

peepper Sunday, July 21, 2013

the most stoopid thing ever are the "omo, oppa is racist cuz he's doing blackface" I'm black and I don't find it offensive... That blackface stuff is part of USA history (and some countries), not world history.

And I agree with you, is ;hypocrite when kfans talk about how their idols are the kings of hallyu but don't appreciates the ifans that help to give them the title.

hottest_shawol Saturday, July 20, 2013

I'm not interested in what K-fans say or any of their insults towards i-fans.

;I like and love my idol. I support them. ;

Nuff said.

feifa Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gurl you ignorant? I'm Mexican. Boys can get off doing the service almost while simply saying "I don't want it". In fact the process of selection is by sorting. If a guy gets the black ball he has to present himself to do the service, and just by saying he has the cold, the army can just put a big sign on his file that says "useless". As in useless to serve the country (though one could think they need to tough up, because they are so useless for everything nowadays). Almost all people in the military are not on service, and the ones that got there did it because they wanted to. There are also plenty of girls in the military. ;

Aaaaand no one gives a fuck about USA as "a threat", at least when it comes to everything but the "accidental" black market on armament because USA, the biggest drug user, needs them drugs while my people is dying here. ;

minted_vanilla Friday, July 19, 2013

Call me naive, but I never thought of fans as i- or k-fans. Aren't we the same - supporting our members?

peepper Sunday, July 21, 2013

in the ideal world, yes... Things are like that.

inoo96 Thursday, July 18, 2013

amende ni? bnde cmni pun nk gaduhh

jjangmissa Thursday, July 18, 2013

kpop became popular because of i-fans who support their idols..

why cant i-fans and k-fans be united?

feifa Saturday, July 20, 2013

this is untrue. intl fans they think they are so many, but statistically speaking, all artists are always going to be more famous domestically. ALWAYS, for any country. katy perry, bruno mars are always going to be bigger in the USA than in other countries, or, if not, always going to be bigger in westerner countries. kpop is a trend now, yes, but the market is still way too closed to make it so easy for intl fans to stand as actively as korean ones do. and if they are big somewhere, it will mostly be with asian fans. kpop became popular because it's nice and different from the usual westerner fan fare. kpop became popular because the economic prowess of Korea as a nation grew enough to make their culture a selling point, just like other first world nations did and still do.

u.s.a.vet.patriot Wednesday, July 17, 2013

no argument about the scumbags and skanks in the US music industry... that's why I like SNSD and other Kpop girl groups. ;

but you are an ignorant fool on everything else. mcveigh? what the hell does he have to do with anything?

you think that one shitbird is representative of the millions who have served, fought, bled, and died to defend the USA and our allies? how about remembering the millions of Americans who fought to free others from the Nazis and Japanese fascists, and the 250,000 never came home. How about the hundreds of thousands of Americans who fought to defend South Korea and the 40,000 who died doing so?

You are free and have the privilege of living in America, but you crap on those who served, fought, and died to protect you and your freedoms.

keep your head in your anal krevice where it belongs,

joshwawright Friday, July 19, 2013

ur kidding when u say that artists in the US are skanks but snsd are ok right.........bc snsd reveals just as much skin as US artists do.......

u.s.a.vet.patriot Saturday, July 20, 2013

@joshwawright bullshit... you don't see SNSD's booties or hooters hanging out all over.

joshwawright Sunday, July 21, 2013

@u.s.a.vet.patriot yes because every girl who's famous in the US is walking around with her tits and her ass showing ur literally so dumb if u think that snsd isnt hypersexualized in korea..

u.s.a.vet.patriot Sunday, July 21, 2013

@joshwawright not talking about every girl, just the healthy majority of celeb/entertainers. SNSD is nowhere near being raunchy and overtly sexual, which is what i'm talking about. it's not clothing it is behavior that is the big contrast.

krevice Saturday, July 27, 2013

http://bit.ly/MteLj -- Timothy James " Tim" McVeigh (April 23, 1968 - June 11, 2001) was a USA MILITARY VETERAN (Bronze Star Award) and American terrorist who detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Commonly referred to as the Oklahoma City bombing, the attack killed 168 people and injured over 600.

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