If you can’t get a cozy couple pic with your bias in the flesh, there’s always another option… no, not Madame Tussauds, although the company did run a special exhibition in Seoul in 2015. Instead, think a little more 2D. Cardboard cutouts of idols, and other eye-catching Korean celebs, are a common sight for Koreans.

They’ll sometimes be used at press events and TV recordings when the idol can’t be present but still wants to be ‘on-screen’ with their group, and sometimes they’ll also pop up at official events for fans to pose with, but the most common place you’ll see them is when you’re simply out shopping.

Idols are often endorsing brands – everything from makeup to instant noodles. As they can’t be physically present at every brand’s shop all the time, a lifesize cardboard cutout often takes their place to greet customers. Walk around Myeongdong and you’ll see them outside almost every cosmetics store. The cardboard crew also often hang around music stores, bookstores, and phone stores. Sure beats a simple poster on the shop door.

Despite their obvious popularity for promotional purposes, very few of these lifesize cardboard cutouts are actually sold as official K-pop goods. Which has lead to a whole raft of unusual thefts of popular cutouts. We’ve written before about a man pinching EXO-K’s Baekhyun from a KFC in China.

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In 2015, SK Telecom produced cutouts of AOA’s Seolhyun that proved irresistable to fans. In summer, a large sticker version of a cutout on the store doors was repeatedly stolen, and a winter cutout of her wearing a red dress proved just as popular. SK Telecom had to send extra Seolhyuns to every store. Defending herself from netizens who say her cutouts must be edited to make her body look better, Seolhyun has deliberately posed with her cutouts a few times.

She’s not the only one: Miss A’s Suzy, EXID’s Hani, Kang Sora and Jin Seyeon have all posed with their cutouts to prove they’re the real deal.

Male idols don’t seem to get as much flak from netizens about editing, although a few extra inches of height is surely added to every cardboard idol to boost his morale. You can see the real deal here, as last week, Instiz posted pictures of BTS playing around with a set of cardboard cutouts of themselves. Both male and female idols have also been spotted playing with other celebs cutouts.

Crayon Pop show us how to fangirl properly with the help of some cutouts of One Direction.


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British writer and editor living in Japan. Currently studying Japanese, Korean, K-pop dance, and the fine form of 이성종's legs.