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In: Disassembling the Celebrity Figure

In recent years Hallyu, or the ‘Korean Wave,’ has been sweeping across the globe. In this chapter, the term will serve almost exclusively as a synonym for ‘Korean music.’ As with every music genre, it has a fandom all its own, albeit divided into two distinct domains: domestic and international. Although the basics of fan culture tend to be similar virtually everywhere (whether in Europe, South America, or China, for example), the country of South Korea has produced a distinctive fan culture that, in its extremist behaviour, goes far beyond that of any other contemporary fandom. The possessiveness of South Korean fans, their oppressive attitude toward artists, and the demanding nature of their fan circles all appear to be derived from the deeply rooted idea in South Korea that a public person has no personal life. Fans (particularly female ones) treat their idols as their personal possessions, as if they belong to them and them only, and real-life relationships of the idols are either discouraged or hidden; whenever caught engaging in a secret relationship, idols need to apologize for having someone other than the fans. This leads to the creation of inter-band pairings as the main pillar of existence for many female fans. South Korea has problems accepting homosexuality, and the only area in which it is fully embraced is that of fanfiction writing and ‘pairing.’ Fans prefer the idea of their idols having romantic relationships with other male members of their groups rather than with some outside girl who is not them. Such behaviour, although specific, is not the worst – this area belongs to ‘sasaeng,’ the extreme, violent, and completely out-of-control group of stalkers. This extreme subgroup of fans has become known for entering their idols’ homes, stealing their possessions, taking photos, leaving them bloody letters, and chasing after their cars. To make the situation even worse, they appear to be completely beyond the means of lawful punishment. Korean ‘sasaeng,’ therefore, is the epitome of the fan culture’s worst nightmare that appears to have broken free.

In: Living in the Limelight: Dynamics of the Celebrity Experience