Fandom, by definition, means a group of fans of a particular person, team, or fictional series, regarded collectively as a community or subculture. Fandom culture is often thought of as activities such as watching concerts, cheering for performances together, enjoying secondary entertainment, or sending gifts. The K-pop fandoms are expanding its scope, spreading its positive influence on political activism and social issues such as climate justice. K-pop fandoms spreading positive influence in society is not a new thing. Even before K-pop activism, fandoms made donations in the names of the celebrities they support on their birthdays or memorable dates such as debut dates. These subtle acts started with the extensive gathering of fandoms through social media and gradually grew to become the so-called “K-pop activism.” K-pop activism refers to the phenomenon where K-pop fandoms speak out for political and social issues. The American newsweekly TIME described K-pop fandoms supporting anti-racism through the “Black Lives Matter” movement as “political activism” in 2020.
Fans of different K-pop groups speak out against various social problems in their own ways and spread positive messages. Ewha Voice met KPOP4PLANET, a platform that practices climate action with K-pop fans from all over the world, and a fan of SEVENTEEN who conducted a blood donation campaign to celebrate the 7th anniversary of SEVENTEEN’s debut.
Lee Da-yeon: I am Lee Da-yeon, an activist of KPOP4PLANET. KPOP4PLANET is a platform that practices climate action with K-pop fans around the world. In March last year, Nurul, an activist in Indonesia, first launched KPOP4PLANET, and while looking for a friend to work with from Korea, she contacted me. A few months ago, a friend named Nuha from Indonesia joined, so there are a total of three junior activists and four senior activists who support the juniors.
An anonymous CARAT: I am the leader of the 2022 SEVENTEEN Blood Donation Project. I do not want to reveal my nickname or real name, so I think this will be the only introduction. The blood donation project is prepared to celebrate SEVENTEEN’s seventh debut anniversary and their fourth studio album. In 2019, SEVENTEEN said they will no longer receive material gifts from fans. After thinking about how to replace sending gifts, we carried out the 2021 SEVENTEEN Forest Project, a project that supported the reforestation with the money raised by fans last year. This year, we have seen a lot of articles about the lack of blood due to COVID-19, so we decided to donate blood to help.
Lee Da-yeon: K-pop fans have been consistently practicing climate action. In response to disasters such as wildfires in Australia and Turkey and floods in Indonesia, K-pop fans gathered to raise donations. For example, when an earthquake and flood broke out in Indonesia last January, local fan club members collected 100 million won within ten days and donated it.
Besides that, the form of giving gifts to K-pop artists has changed recently. In the past, fans used to give gifts to their favorite artists. However, these days, fans donate in the name of their favorite artists. For example, fans of RM from BTS carried out a tree-planting campaign, creating an RM forest. Although no one has defined these activities as climate action, they can be seen as climate action. We launched KPOP4PLANET because we could make meaningful and positive changes in the K-pop industry if K-pop fans from all over the world joined forces.
Recently, there have been a lot of opinions among fans regarding albums. In order to go to in-person events, fans must purchase many albums. Even if they keep a few for themselves, it is difficult to keep the rest. In the end, it is just garbage, but albums are made of many disposable materials. The album sales method must be improved. I felt these problems and the need for change, so I organized an online petition campaign called No K-POP on A Dead Planet (NKDP).
An anonymous CARAT: One of our goals is to make SEVENTEEN known, but I think the most obvious reason is to celebrate the seventh anniversary of their debut. It is such a celebration that my favorite artists, who give me energy and strength as well as the reason for my life, are to celebrate a special anniversary with us.
Q. What is the progress of the activity?
Lee Da-yeon: As industries around the world are changing and responding to climate change, the K-pop industry must also change. Therefore, we are conducting various campaigns with fans. Since July, under the slogan NKDP, we conducted online petitions asking entertainment companies for climate action, such as making eco-friendly albums. Achieving the target of 10,000 signatures, we delivered the signatures to entertainment companies through a meeting held at the National Assembly on Dec. 6 last year. Since then, we have seen changes in the policies of entertainment companies with environmental awareness, YG entertainment producing albums using sustainable materials for example.
Since March, we have been conducting a campaign called Plastic Album Attack Campaign, a campaign where KPOP4PLANET collects the remaining albums as a representative and sends them back to the entertainment companies with a message asking them to provide green options for fans to receive as many albums as they want. Thankfully, so many fans were interested in the campaign that we collected 8,027 albums in less than a month.
To commemorate Earth Day, we held a honeybee dance performance in front of HYBE entertainment on April 21 to request a sustainable K-pop industry. The next day, on April 22, we delivered the collected albums to each entertainment company with messages left by fans on our rolling paper website.
An anonymous CARAT: The blood donation project is carried out in total of three forms. The first is blood donation. If fans go to the designated blood donation center and donate blood, they can receive gifts we prepared for them. The second is a blood donor card donation. Some of the fans who cannot come to the designated blood donation center may still want to participate in the project. Those fans can send blood donor cards to us. The blood donor cards collected here will be donated in the name of SEVENTEEN to the Korea Childhood Leukemia Foundation.
The last is goods sales and financial donation. There are people who cannot donate blood at all. Since most SEVENTEEN fans are women, they are often unable to donate blood due to menstruation or anemia. So, we made options for those fans to support through financial donations.
Lee Da-yeon: KPOP4PLANET is communicating with many K-pop fans on social media. We produce content on K-pop issues related to environmental awareness and upload them on Instagram and Twitter. Posting campaign-related content often leads to a lot of retweets, replies, and direct messages. I receive a lot of questions and supportive comments from different K-pop fans. The fact that there are so many people who are interested in and support our campaign gives us the strength to continue our activities.
An anonymous CARAT: Having been working on two different projects since last year, I am surprised by the passion of fans. When I conducted the forest project last year, 250 percent of the target amount was met in three hours, which is less than half a day. I am always impressed by the interest and participation of the fans, and I am grateful that there is someone who can share such a good meaning together.
In fact, the proudest thing is CARAT, SEVENTEEN’s fans. They want to be more helpful and want to participate in projects that help society. As a project leader, I think I am merely delivering their passion to companies and foundations.
Lee Da-yeon: K-pop fans are already supporting society by creating forests named after their favorite artists, making donations to support single-parent families or single mothers, or adopting wild animals in the name of artists. K-pop artists are also consistently mentioning the good influence of such fans in a live broadcast called V LIVE, giving fans the driving force to continue to rally and exert positive influence. I think we can call these phenomena K-pop activism. It would be great if we could gather this solidarity and change the K-pop industry itself positively and continuously. If there are K-pop fans watching this interview, please do not hesitate to join KPOP4PLANET.
An anonymous CARAT: As a K-pop fan, I am uncomfortable with the social perception and criticism against K-pop fans that tend to disregard K-pop compared to other forms of culture. For example, it is considered crazy to spend 100,000 won on a K-pop concert, but it is okay to spend the same or more on a musical, opera, or classical music concert. I hate this stereotype, and therefore I want to show the positive influence of K-pop fans on society. To those who disrespect K-pop fans, I want to show that the people they ignore contribute to society better than they do.