K-pop subculture ’jogong’ sparks dispute

2013-04-24 15:07

Jo Kwon of K-pop group 2AM poses in front of his jogong items (Jo Kwon`s Twitter account)

The subculture of K-pop fandoms giving expensive gifts to their favorite stars, so-called “jogong,” is becoming more common, raising concerns among the general public about how much is too much.

“Jogong” is a Korean word for a gift that colonies pay as a tribute to their ruling states. In Korean fan culture, however, the word is widely used for a present fans give to their favorite stars. Some hardcore fans jokingly consider themselves the “weaker ones” who are to pay jogong to an “upper person” -- their beloved stars.

Some of the frequently bought jogong items are snacks, box lunches and beverages. Fans usually order 70 to 100 servings and deliver them to the set where their favorite celebrities and staff are shooting for a film or television show.

One of the concerning trends of the jogong culture is that it has degenerated into a competition between fans to prepare more expensive gifts.

In 2011, actor Park Si-hoo received a 150 million won ($134,000) car as a gift from fans for his birthday. Although his fan community mainly consists of women in their 30s, the price is still high for a single fan club.

Popular K-pop group TVXQ member U-know was given luxury items including a laptop, digital synthesizer and camera in 2008. The 10 million won worth of presents were donated to society after the idol star faced public criticism for receiving expensive gifts from young fans.

Heo Ga-yoon of girl group 4minute poses behind birthday gifts (Ga-yoon`s Twitter accout)

The overheated competition has triggered a financial burden on some fans, especially teenagers. To secure money for such luxurious gifts, fan communities are putting subtle pressure on its members to financially support jogong events.

“I had been participating in several jogong events until last year,” said a former member of the fan club for boy band Super Junior, who asked to remain anonymous.

She said people who do not participate in the jogong events are shunned by other members. Also, they face disadvantages when they take part in other events the community offers, such as fan meetings or concerts.

“Some of the club members said they had to take part-time jobs to donate money. Considering their young age, ranging from 13 to 19, I don’t think the jogong culture has done any good to them,” she said.

“Recognizing the effort celebrities and staff put into making quality media content is all right. However, it is concerning that fans nowadays are focusing too much on giving materialistic gifts,” said Kim Hun-shik, a pop culture critic.

By Park Sui, Intern reporter