Breaking the Stigma: An Interview with an older K-pop fan

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People like to associate liking K-pop (Korean pop music) with being a teenager. Many people who don’t like K-pop think that teenagers screaming over Korean guys with loads of makeup are the kind of people who like that genre of music, but that is not the case. I recently interviewed an older K-pop fan who has been into the genre for over 10 years. Her name is Sam (the name is changed for privacy reasons). She is 30 years old, lives in Chicago, Illinois and has been a K-pop fan since 2009. She is a fan of over 10 groups but her top 5 are: MBLAQ, Ukiss, Monsta X, SS501, and FT Island. She’s been to over 30 concerts and out of those she got to meet the idols have VIP access for 5 of them. Her first concert was Ukiss in 2014, which she saw in New York City, they have since disbanded in late 2019. I asked her a few questions and some of her responses really opened my eyes to the k-pop community and being a fan.

One question I asked her was, “What is your favorite thing about being a K-pop fan and going to concerts?” 

S: “Hmmm… There’s a few things I really love about K-pop. The music is high energy and full of life. I love the music itself because it brings me so much joy, but something else I have found through K-pop is a sense of community. Majority of my close friends, including my best friends, I have met through K-pop. K-pop concerts have a unique vibe that I haven’t seen anywhere since the days of the late 90’s/early 2000’s boy bands in America. There’s such a positive energy in the crowd and different effects on stage. The dancing is incredible. It’s truly special seeing lightsticks glow in unison while the crowd chants (fan-chants that go along with the song) together.” 

You always see people, especially today on social media who bash K-pop but haven’t ever listened to it.  I asked Sam if she had anything she would say to a non-Kpop fan?

S: “I think K-pop gets bashed for two reasons: First, because it’s in a different language and second because the majority of vocal fans on the online platforms are younger teens with the majority identifying as female. I think these two things make it an easy target for non-fans to attack. First I would ask, “why are you attacking them?” and “what are the negatives you see about it?” Also “does it hurt others and how?” Then I would ask if they have ever been ridiculed for something they like, and how do they combat that? It’s okay to not like something but you can’t build an argument without researching it. I would say just keep an open mind and if you don’t like it then it’s okay, but don’t tell someone else they can’t like it”

Lastly, I asked her, “Do you have a favorite memory or moment from a fan meeting/concert?”

S: “I flew to Mexico to see Lee Joon of MBLAQ for a fan meet. IT was his last one before he had to join the military for his mandatory enlistment in 2017. I, a very Caucasian female, forgot all the Spanish I took in High School, so the fan meet was very hard to understand because of the Spanish translator at the event, I actually understood the Korean better. Still, it was a blast. At the end, I went in for Hi-touch and took a photo with him, (moment at the end of the concert when you get the chance to hi-five and meet the idol briefly) he was saying ‘Gracias’ to everyone…until I walked up. He took one look at me and said ‘Thank You.’ I still laugh about it to this day.” 

There’s always going to be that stigma with liking K-pop, but hopefully, through this interview, we can understand that liking a genre of music shouldn’t have to be about age and everyone should be able to enjoy music regardless of age.

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My name is Mariah Olmstead and I'm a Senior at NEC. I transferred to NEC in fall of 2019 and I'm currently a communications major with a concentration in Journalism and Media/Production. Before coming to NEC, I worked for the Walt Disney Company and Universal Studios Orlando as a performer, and before that I was a student at Community College of Vermont. I want to be a travel writer or work for a production/media company once I graduate in the spring. I love Kpop, theatre, and dancing. Most of my editorials are personal stories or related to theme parks, and the Kpop industry. Once I graduate, I plan on teaching English abroad in Korea.
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