As much as we can all agree that the surge of interest in Korean culture has brought so much joy to people across the world, it is important to pause occasionally and reflect on how this may affect the people who work so hard to bring it to us. Though it is incredible that there is a larger worldwide demand for Korean media, it casts a larger spotlight on the idols within it.
As with any area of interest that grows large enough, there are those who love it so much that it can cloud their judgement and they act in a way that isn’t acceptable. The most recent case of this is the recent threat towards TWICE’s Nayeon, who is now under police protection because of a German fan who stalked her on a flight from Japan back to Seoul. She should not have to fear for her safety simply because of the job that she does. As we can all appreciate, in an idol’s busy schedule, the private time that they have is very precious and limited. This includes their travel time. Just because they are entertainers, this does not mean that they should have to fear for their own personal space.
BTS’ V has spoken out on this subject during a recent vlive broadcast. He said:
“We want to travel on a regular flight. […] Fans may know beforehand that we will be boarding and will sit next to us or in front of us. In those private spaces, we don’t get to relax as much as we want to. So we were a bit uncomfortable. To be frank with you, we don’t want you to do that. […] It’s scary really”
For idols to feel this level of discomfort, to the point where they have to address it on a broadcast, is something that must stop. Unless an idol is attending an event that is specifically intended for fans, they should not be surrounded by fans. Idols are entirely normal people and require their own space as much as anyone else and to think otherwise is dangerous.
The constant scrutiny of people across the world can really affect the mental and physical health of these artists. G-Dragon has previously taken to twitter to warn fans that their behaviour is beginning to affect him and his family. He tweeted:
요즘따라 어린친구들이 집까지 찾아온다.. 현관문앞까지도.. 다 이해하는데 이건 정말아닌듯싶다.. 엄마랑누나가 밤에 집에들어오다 너무 놀란다들.. 숨어있지마라 집은오지말아줘
— G-DRAGON (@IBGDRGN) February 28, 2013
This translates to “Nowadays, kids follow me to my house..right to the gates..I understand but this has to stop. My mother and sister get scared, don’t hide in the front.”
To go beyond just affecting the idols to then affect their families shows just how toxic saesang behaviour can be. G-Dragon’s family should not have to fear for their safety just because they are related to an idol, just as much as the idol themselves do not deserve to be subjected to it in the first place.
Super Junior’s Heechul got into a car accident and broke his leg trying to evade ‘saesang’ fans. This is completely and utterly unacceptable, Heechul could have died during this incident and to be seriously injured by those who claim to care for them must be awful. Whether it is fans crossdressing to enter certain changing rooms (as happened to EXO) or Jaejoong’s experience of being followed into a sauna and photos being taken of him while he sleeps, it must be completely terrifying to be subjected to this kind of constant attention. If fans genuinely care for these idols, it must be generally understood that we have to respect their boundaries as much as we respect them.
I know that this issue is not a problem across the whole fan base of K-Pop, but it is a problematic element of fan culture that needs to be addressed. This is not something that is isolated to Korean celebrities but it is still crucial to ensure that something as wonderful as the celebration of different cultures is done in a safe and healthy way.