“We are people and we are affected by his decisions – we aren’t just K-pop stans, we’re humans before we’re fans, and if we have the platform and the numbers to try to make a change then we’ll do it.” – Anonymous
In the past few years, we have all heard the term “K-Pop” because of the fast growth in the popularity of the boy band, BTS. There is a term which is common with the K-pop fans and that is “stan”. Ever heard of it? You might not have, but recently, these K-pop stans have been driving political activism. Merriam webster dictionary defines stan as an extremely or excessively enthusiastic and devoted fan. For the K-pop fans, stan essentially means that they are a big fan of some K-pop artist, they genuinely support them and they’re invested in the success of their idols.
Now, coming onto the question here, what have K-pop fans got to do with political activism? K-pop Stan Twitter is an online Twitter community which is quite influential and plays a huge role in sharing posts and expressing their opinions about various Korean artists. However, recently they came into the spotlight when a lot of members of this community requested for tickets to Ex-President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa to increase the attendance expectations for the rally which was supposed to take place on 20th June, 2020. That’s when it all started since photos were circulated relating to the half-empty BOK Centre and these K-pop stans took the credit for being responsible for it. The K-pop community is very diverse, consisting of people from all nationalities, races and sexual orientations. The majority of these people had opinions that had a stark contrast with the opinions of Donald Trump, especially in relation to the LGBTQ+ community and racism.
In the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, the K-pop stans had made a huge effort to silence the #WhiteLivesMatter hashtag by flooding social media with K-pop memes linked to the racial hashtag. #WhiteLivesMatter had been started by some white supremacists in an attempt to squash the BLM movement. The Dallas government had encouraged people to submit videos of “illegal protest activities” on the iWatch Dallas app. A K-pop stan suggested flooding the app with short videos of K-Pop idols performing and this eventually resulted in the crashing of the app. In the shooting of George Floyd and the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement, people all around the world stood in solidarity to show support and this included a lot of Korean artists and entertainment groups which donated $1 million to the BLM movement. In addition to this, it is said that K-pop stans also managed to raise $1 million for the Black Lives Matter campaign, matching the donation amount.
Is this enough to say that K-pop stans are driving political activism? No. Is there a connection between the Black Lives Matter movement and K-pop? Let’s see. There seems to be an opposite relationship as a lot of Korean pop ideals have been called out for misappropriating black culture and perpetuating stereotypes about black people. Some artists have also received some backlash for stating that they are skilled at “talking Black”. There have also been more subtle glorification of racist actions by the K-pop artists. However, in most of the situations, the K-pop artists are not to be blamed because a large number of decisions about all these things comes from a chain of command which is responsible for these bad decisions.
K-pop stans mostly include Gen-Z people which implies that they are socially more active, more aware about what is happening in the world and hence, more literate digitally. This shows the kind of power the K-pop stans hold and the kind of power social media, as a whole, holds. However, the irony is that while the K-pop stans are now well known for the power they hold and the values they believe in and support, the K-pop industry is still plagued by a huge number of ethical allegations, many of which revolve around racism and cultural inappropriation.
While on the global platform, this might be the first time that their efforts have been noticed, they have been around for a long period of time and have had a real-world impact such as the law that had been passed against the blacklisting of celebrities in South Korea in 2015, donations to a London charity to fund 35,000 meals and advocation of safer roads in Bangladesh. K-pop embodies the spirit of community building and they have been successful in showing that “entertainment and social engagement do not have to be mutually exclusive.”