Sasaeng when fans turn fanatical | Sunday Observer

Sasaeng when fans turn fanatical

K-Pop or Korean Pop, has clearly made itself a mainstay of modern pop culture and music globally, outperforming most mainstream performers with surprising consistency and is leading the charge on what has become known as the Korean Wave or Hallyu. Much like USA’s British Invasion of the sixties, the Korean Wave is the dramatic increase in global popularity of South Korean culture which has been going on since the early nineties and has spread rapidly through the modern advances of social networking. This came about thanks to the South Korean Government’s decision to support its creative industries as a form of global ‘Soft Power’, turning the nation into one of the world’s leading exporters of culture, where the US has been the undisputed best until recently, sharing that honour with other cultures like the British and Japanese cultures.

At the heart of the Korean Wave is K-Pop. Though its popularity had been building over several decades, the moment in 2012 when PSY’s Gangnam Style music video became the first YouTube video to reach one billion views marked the moment K-Pop cemented itself in global mainstream media and its subsequent coverage skyrocketed the genre’s popularity in an unbelievably short time.

The appeal of K-Pop seems to be in their performers, or as they are more appropriately known, idols, and their relative perfection. The Idols’ appearances, their choreography, conduct, everything else has been honed to near perfection through hard work, considerable monetary investment and other relevant factors. This appearance of almost inhuman perfection has attracted the admiration of millions of people worldwide. Unfortunately, with all this attention comes the type of ‘fans’ that live up to the unabbreviated form of that term, fanatic. The unsavory or unpleasant fans of K-Pop are as varied as they are great in number, but the distinction must be made between fans who simply enjoy K-Pop and express their support in grandiose ways and the rest of them. There are the relatively harmless ones like Koreaboos, fans who allow K-Pop and Korean culture to remake their entire lives, often speaking in broken Korean to those who have no means of understanding them; appropriating Korean culture while abandoning their own. And then there are Saeseng Fans.

Most would consider calling them fans to be a misnomer but ignoring what the word has come to mean, a supporter, they suit the etymology of the word quite well. Overzealous and excessive in their corrupt devotion, Sasaeng fans have ruined what it means to love K-Pop Idols for many within the community and has coloured the expectations and assumptions of those outside it with their public and criminal actions.

What motivates these people is what motivates any radical fan of any celebrity, to gain the recognition of the target of their obsession. Sasaengs have come out and stated their desire to become closer to their idols and through stalking and other criminal actions, they deludedly believe they become special to them. How they achieve this often contradicts their supposed love for their idol, with reports of some Sasaeng fans physically assaulting their idols to burn themselves into their memory, even through trauma if necessary. This behaviour is only marginally different from Anti-fans, who’s goal is the failure of a certain idol or group, the only difference being the motivation behind their actions.

The main past time of the rabid Sasaeng fan is the gathering of information about their favourite idols, or Bias as they call it, by any means necessary. Sasaengs who are old enough often get jobs that can help with that like at phone companies, card companies, airline companies and even on the target’s support staff. Thanks to social networking, this sort of behaviour is almost trivial, buying and selling of sensitive information on idols has become commonplace. Another example of the commercialising of Sasaeng behaviour is the phenomenamSasaengTaxis,-taxis that illegally provide the service of following idols around, often breaking traffic laws, for exorbitant prices.

While most of them are just creepy, the worst of what these people do can be extremely disturbing. Home intrusion, car accidents from reckless driving of fan vehicles and three cases too many of messages to their idol’s written in blood and posted on social media.

Reactions to this phenomenon has been universal revulsion, with varying degrees of action. The Idols themselves have been very outspoken about their disgust and fear, in some cases even resorting to physical retribution but due to their inhumane contracts that last as long as 13 years, there is very little else they can do. The global and local media makes them out to be the average fan, only hurting the community in the process without actually helping anything. Actual legal response from the Korean Government has been similarly lacking as the country doesn’t have actual laws protecting celebrities from stalkers. As the cases have exacerbated in severity, talks have taken place about preventing such incidents, but nothing has become law yet.