Of Fancams & Hashtags: The Strength of K-POP Fans in Online Activism

Elly Zulaikha
June 20, 2020
5 minutes

In light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement, K-POP fans gave a big surprise to non-KPOP fans through their vocal online activism, which has now caught the attention of some of the biggest news outlets like BBC and Washington Post. We’re here to give you a summary of what went down with K-POP fans’ impressive online activism and how they have been doing this even before BLM surged again.

Where fancams and meme thrive

The Twitter-verse is one of the biggest homes for K-POP fans to share (and sometimes argue with each other) their love and appreciation for their idols. During their average days, K-POP fans do a variety of things from discussing theories of their favorite idol group’s latest music video to creating appreciation posts. This in turn made it seem like K-POP fans have nothing to do besides that. 

K-POP stans, “stan” meaning prolific online superfans, does more than that. They proved their organizational and PR prowess through their social and humanitarian cause. Their massive online presence that spreads over a widely diverse group of fans, who are extremely socially aware, were often undermined by outsiders who thought K-POP fans consisted of “shallow” young girls.

In fact, K-POP stans are extremely skilled at manipulating the algorithms of social media— like crowding hashtags whenever possible, regardless when their favorite K-POP groups release new music or not, as well as mass streaming music videos and singles found all over Youtube and Spotify— all because of how much they want their favorite groups/idols to get views and of course, more followings. Additionally, their colorful social media that consists of memes and fancams made it seem as if these accounts are just internet bots.

For example, in August 2018, BTS’s super fans, ARMYs, and other K-POP fans joined forces in support of youth protests for Bangladesh, in which they called for better road safety standards after a deadly collision happened in the country.

Back in 2012, 2NE1 fans donated over 1,210 mango trees to a local village in South Sudan, whereas South Korean fans often donate rice wreaths to local charities under their favorite artists’ names. 

Fast forward to February 2020, Korean ARMY’s collectively donated refunds from BTS’ canceled Seoul concerts to raise for COVID-19 relief. Of course, in June 2020, ARMYs managed to launch and surpassed a fundraiser to #MatchAMillion followed after the group’s $1 million donations to BLM, all under 24 hours. 

Check out One in An Army (a charity organization created by BTS’ fans, ARMYs)’s previous missions here

Chain reaction

Image via denofgeek

Having a legion of devoted fans within the K-POP community showed that if an idol starts championing a noble cause, then the fans will follow in their footsteps whereas the effect they have can be massive depending on the size of the fandom itself. However, it’s common to see that before the artists themselves voice out, it’s usually the fans who start organizing themselves.

Recently, BTS made headlines through their $1 million donation to the Black Lives Matter movement and that wasn’t the first time the group contributed to donation drives. But even before the group announces their support and condemning violence against the black community, their fans, known as ARMYs, took the matter into their own hands way before them. 

It all began after Dallas Police Department tweeted:

Image via Twitter

As K-POP fans are known for their swift, albeit ‘merciless’ actions, ARMYs soon flooded the Dallas PD Twitter with fancams depicting close-up shots of their idols singing and dancing on stage. Captions like “ILLEGAL ACTIVITY, please watch” or “I have a video for you” soon crashed both the Dallas PD Twitter page as well as the iWatch Dallas app.

On the other hand, other K-POP idols came forward with messages or donations that further made the K-POP fans’ online activism grow bigger. For example, Mark Tuan of GOT7 reminded his fans to stay strong and safe, as well as donating $7,000 to the George Floyd Memorial Fund. Then, Jae of the rock band, DAY6 poured donations to Minnesota Freedom Fund as he also linked the right pages for his fans to help the BLM movement going. 

Eric Nam, Holland, Crush, Loco as well as Ahin, Nancy and Joo from girl group Momoland all took to social media to either voice out their support, urging fans to sign petitions or contributing more donations to the movement. This in turn encouraged fans across different fandoms to join forces and demand change for the BLM movement. 

Similarly, fans immediately took over Twitter after racists tried surfacing the #WhiteLivesMatter or #BlueLivesMatter, deploying the same tactics of fancam and meme spam that eventually and effectively, buried racists tweets contained in the two hashtags.

Complex issues within the fandom itself

Image via huffpost

While their good deeds and intentions are always welcomed, the recent activism’ uprising has outweighed the more complicated things running within the K-POP fandom. Some even highlighted the newfound anti-racist heroism mostly ignores the voices of black K-POP fans, in which they struggled with harassment and racism within the fandom themselves.

Indeed, K-POP fans and the industry as a whole has a complicated and long history with cultural appropriation and antiblack racism. 

One black K-POP fan and culture writer, Keidra Chaney, revealed “seeing white K-POP fans get praised and credited in the media for anti-racist activism, while black fans have faced (and will continue to face) anti-black harassment online for spearheading these conversations, feels like a punch in the gut— that we are being used for our social currency and then discarded”. 

However, more and more K-POP fans are taking the matter into their hands, specifically to address the ongoing social problems that are also happening within the fandom by holding open, yet casual discussions to spread awareness. 

Image via sayingimages

Being a K-POP fan has always been stigmatized, due to our cathartic obsession in K-POP, thus labeling fangirling/fanboying as embarrassing, whereas now, K-POP fans are getting the recognition and applause worldwide for becoming internet vigilantes. 

But one thing is certain, at the heart of K-POP stans, the act of giving within the society is infectious, and for people who find themselves in a global movement, liking a Korean music has never been more appreciated than ever. By continuing to use the platforms as well as privileges we have, it is worth noting that K-POP fans can, and will, in fact, fight for a cause they believe in, without hesitation.