There is a darker side to the world of K-pop fandom, and it is much closer than one could imagine. Though the culture of K-pop and K-pop fandom continues to go beyond national and cultural boundaries, becoming a K-pop idol fan and the rituals and customs that come along with it are still very new and foreign to most parents of fans.
The suffering of idol fans' parents, unbeknownst to their children...
Despite the increasing exposure, parents are still unaware of how to respond to their children's obsession with K-pop idols. What, to them, is merely a group of beautiful boys with perfect skin, who dress in Gucci and Saint Laurent, only to run around in circles on stage, to their children, seem to be the world and more. A large part of this concern, however, comes from the extent to which their children love after their idol fans. How much is too much?
Recently TIME published an article concerning a K-pop fan, identified as Molly, and how she responded to her father's apathy and disapproval of her fanning one of the BTS members, Jimin. It was when Molly's father left on a business trip, claiming he needed a break from BTS and Jimin. Thinking to play a prank on her father and show him just how much Jimin means to her, Molly decided to prepare a little surprise for her father when he came back.
Tthe father returned home only to be bombarded by more Jimin's than he could ever imagine. "At least there's not one in the shower," the father is heard saying, followed straight by Molly's ensuing laughter. "I would check again," she says to which, as if on cue, a voice is heard groaning, "Oh there is one! Oh my god..."
After threatening to tweet each and every one of the photos, Molly's father eventually shares his horror of Jimin on Instagram, "I have no one else to blame. What did I expect?" he posts, "How many more? Oh dear God, how many more? He is everywhere," which is a reality for more houses than he can imagine.
Korean parents are no exception to this community of suffering. In fact, many of them may have it worse, if not only because of the accessibility. A talk show on KBS 2 called Korea Talk Show Annyong haseyo recently broadcast an episode of a case of a girl who's "fanning" became so extreme it began to affect both her daily life and later her school life. A fan of SEVENTEEN, not only did she stay up all night watching their videos, but she also left early in the morning to catch a glimpse of the idols on their way to work. Coming in late for class each morning and being unable to complete her assignments, the girl eventually flunked a grade and ended up taking another year of middle school.
The girl's father claimed that he used as much as twelve million Korean won, approximately eleven thousand U.S. dollars alone on just SEVENTEEN idol goods. During the show the father even shed tears saying, "It's not drinking, smoking, or any other bad thing, so I tried hard to understand it," however, it had gone too far. The show ended with the girl's adoring idols, SEVENTEEN, speaking to her through a video message, thanking her for her love, but also telling her that she should still focus on her studies. "If you work hard in school, we promise we will invite you to one of our concerts," the members of SEVENTEEN proclaimed.
Is the idol culture ruining the children of this generation? Some people, especially many parents, might strongly hold this opinion. However, there is more to the K-pop fandom than extreme expressions of obsession. It is a creative culture of music and dance, of inspiration and visual sensation, of joy in the little things, of giving your all in loving someone, and of a rich community that transcends age, nationality, and culture. At the forefront of this culture, enriching it and sometimes creating it, is BTS, a team that can make both the child and the parent become united under one fandom.
The video "House of ARMY," cast by the BTS members themselves, demonstrate this very phenomenon where both the daughter and the mother turn out to be ARMY. Jungkook's Downy incident caused many tweets by parents who were amazed at their child's sudden interest in laundry. No matter where the limitations should be, idol fandom is a culture that can no longer be ignored. Both parents and fans must learn to adapt and accept, to understand and to communicate, and maybe both sides will find that "fanning" can still maintain a certain degree of discipline and that falling for something so intensely might not be so bad after all.
By Bongbong and SongGirl firstname.lastname@example.org