Passion and devotion are not the only qualities of K-pop fans here ― compassion is also on display as they become involved in various charity activities for the sake of their “love for the stars.”
They participate in volunteer work, donate money and items and sometimes hold campaigns.
This phenomenon is not specific to K-pop alone, as demonstrated by the fan activism surrounding Western artists such as Lady Gaga and her support for LGBT rights, and U2’s role in antipoverty campaigns.
However with K-pop fan activism, it’s the fans, not the stars, who initiate fund-raising and charity events under their favorite entertainers’ names. They are in fact another effective publicity opportunity for the stars.
As a way to show their devotion, fans of Korean pop music donate large sums of money, rice wreaths, or wreaths made up of large bags of rice, and trees to local charities under the name of their chosen stars. They believe that through these actions they can help their favorite K-pop star shine via their good deeds.
“Many fans are more mature than before, and this in turn has given many K-pop stars a better image. Fans have largely contributed to donations spread in Korea,” said Roh Sung-gu, a representative from Dreame, a rice wreath charity.
From fans with love
Donations mostly mark big events for the stars, such as birthdays, concerts, movie and drama launches, and new album releases. The most preferred item is a rice wreath. According to Dreame, fan donations made up 400 tons alone last year.
“The celebrity recorded with the largest amount of rice donations from fans is Kim Jae-joong. At the press conference for ‘Dr. Jin,’ fans from over 30 countries around the world sent a total of 23.68 tons of rice wreaths,” Roh said. The donated items were later distributed to help less privileged people.
On Jan. 19, boy band B.A.P’s Singaporean fans donated rice wreaths to Red Cross in Singapore.
“We’ve heard of overseas fans donating rice on behalf of their idols especially in Korea. However, this is the first time that I have heard of Singaporean fans doing the same, too,” said Che Wenji, Giscille, project leader of Singapore’s Red Cross Society at a press conference.
The fans raised a total of $1,400, which bought 1 ton of rice that went to less affluent families in Singapore.
“We were motivated by Bang Yong-guk (leader of B.A.P) who actively promotes humanitarian efforts and encouraged us to help the elderly and people in need,” said Amelia Leow of local fan club Protect B.A.P Singapore, in an interview with a Singaporean newspaper.
Trees have also become a way for international fans to connect with their favorite idols. Last summer, fans of girl group 2NE1 donated trees in South Sudan to create a “2NE1 Forest” in honor of the group’s “New Evolution Seoul” concert.
They donated 1,210 mango trees to the village of Troj through Tree Planet Korea’s “Star Forest Project,” providing residents of the village with food and shade where children could spend hours studying. Meanwhile, another pop group, Shinhwa, received a forest at Seoul City Park as 1,130 trees were donated by fans last November to mark the group’s 15th anniversary coming up this spring.
“Rather than the older tradition of fans sending flower bouquets to their favorite artists, the phenomenon of doing good deeds in the name of your favorite artists has recently boomed, I believe rice wreaths are becoming even more popular than before because fans want to have an impact on society,” said Roh of Dreame.
By Bae Soo-min (firstname.lastname@example.org