K-pop fans are a force for good to be reckoned with.
Korean pop fans have always used their voice for good. In recent years, K-pop fans have stood against the rise of authoritarian empires across the world.
They’ve organized anti-authoritarian strikes in Myanmar, purchased tickets to harmful and divisive political rallies to increase the number of no-shows, and raised $1 million for Black Lives Matter support groups.
K-pop fans stand together as a force to be reckoned with — their passion for their idols (what fans call the members of K-pop groups) is just as strong as their desire to protect marginalized communities, and they won’t back down.
The creation of K-pop itself has a political background. According to Sam Nakahira, a Japanese-American illustrator and cartoonist, the occupation of Korea by U.S. armed forces in the mid-20th century caused a Western influence on Korean music.
Nakahira told NPR that “because of the military presence, a lot of the military men kind of wanted to listen to American and Western songs. So a lot of Korean music artists and bands would perform at military bases,” he said.
“And they would often perform, like, Western kind of pop-influenced songs. So there was kind of like westernization coming in through the music industry,” which continues to influence the lyricism and production of Korean music today. Korean entertainment is rooted in politics and history, which is not lost on its fans.
The roots of K-pop fan activism can be seen as early as 2013, when The Korea Herald reported that fans were initiating their own fundraisers to donate money, rice, trees, and wreaths to different charities. These selfless actions were made in the name of fans’ favorite K-pop idols; but what people were really seeing was a desire to help one another.
And that desire has lasted for almost a decade now — in October of this year, K-pop fans organized an anti-authoritarian campaign in Myanmar through the same social media accounts they use to support their idols.
For example, these digital organizers helped Myanmar citizens access free internet services by creating a Facebook account.
Since free speech in Myanmar is stifled and censored, fans introduced the Free Basics in Myanmar initiative. The initiative allowed citizens whose voices were silenced by their government to share their stories and hear from other fans around the world.
For other governments, fans organized similar campaigns and efforts to help its residents.
Earlier this year, during the reign of the Trump administration, fans purchased thousands of tickets to President Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The intention behind the idea was to purchase tickets without showing up, leaving speakers with an empty arena. According to The New York Times, the venue, which seats 19,000 people, only had 6,200 attendees that night.
The efforts of K-pop fans have not gone unnoticed by politicians, either. In a quote tweet by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she told off Trump administration advisor Brad Parscale, who shamed fans for their efforts.
“Actually you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations & tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID,” she wrote.
In 2020, K-pop fans in Peru used their networks and platforms to support protesters and push back against propaganda.
K-pop fans’ biggest effort, however, was made in June 2020. Following the murder of George Floyd and its subsequent discourse on police brutality, systematic racism, and the value of Black lives, fans donated and raised $1 million alongside K-pop group BTS.
The money fundraised by these fans, also known as ARMY, was then split evenly between a variety of organizations supporting and advocating for Black lives.
In a statement from the collection of K-Pop fans who fundraised for Black Lives Matter organizations, they explained to BTS fans that they “encourage ARMY to continue educating themselves on the history of anti-black racism in the United States as well as anti-black racism that occurs in your own country.”
A few days earlier, BTS released their own statement which translated to “We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together. #BlackLivesMatter.”
K-pop fans continue existing as a force of good — and it looks like their passion for caring for their community, as well as their favorite idols and groups, isn’t going anywhere.