Learning how to navigate the world of K-pop standom is a difficult but rewarding feat. Sometimes, it’s a risky business where a wrong move or a badly worded tweet could put you on one end of an intense argument. But the highs of achieving comeback streaming goals and crying over an idol’s moving messages with fellow fans is unlike any other—or at least, that’s how it feels in my case.
If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and becoming a bona fide K-pop stan, one of the first things you need to learn is K-pop slang. Sounds intimidating? We’ve got you covered with this cheat sheet to the key terms and phrases that you’ll need to familiarize yourself with in order to keep up with any K-pop conversation.
Similar to J-pop artists, K-pop artists are called idols because they are marketed not only for their music but for an image or personality that is meant to cultivate a dedicated fan following. This is partly why fans and artists are wary of calling K-pop a music genre.
Min Yoongi, or SUGA of BTS, once explained this in a conversation with Grammy Museum executive director Scott Goldman. “I’m a little bit wary of that but I think rather than approach K-pop as a genre, a better approach would be ‘integrated content,’” he said. “K-pop includes not just the music, but the clothes, the makeup, the choreography…all these elements I think sort of amalgamate together in a visual and auditory content package, that I think sets it apart from other music or maybe other genres so again, as I said, rather than approach K-pop as its own genre I think approaching it as this integration of different content would be better.” Music award shows, please take notes.
Bias and bias wrecker
They say that once you get a bias, there’s no turning back. Bias is what you call your favorite member of a group. Your bias doesn’t have to be the first member that you notice and you don’t have to have a crush on them. If you have plenty of biases from different groups, you can call your favorite among them your ultimate bias.
On the other hand, a bias wrecker is a member who steals your attention away from your bias. Unlike your bias, a bias wrecker doesn’t have to be as semi-permanent. For example, you can say that a member bias wrecked (yes, you can use it as a verb) on a music video because they were looking extra spicy on it.
Maknae and matnae
K-pop group members have certain positions that they fill like (main, lead or sub) vocal, rapper, dancer and visual (the term for the “most good looking” member). There are other positions that aren’t related to what they do while performing. Maknae is the Korean term for the youngest member of the group.
A fake maknae is the member who often gets mistaken as the maknae of the group on account of their looks or personality. A matnae, on the other hand, is what you call the oldest member of the group who sometimes acts like the youngest. An example is Twice’s Nayeon.
Sunbae and hoobae
Koreans call their younger siblings or friends their dongsaeng. They also have honorifics for older siblings or friends. You can think of oppa or hyung as the equivalent of kuya while unnie or noona is like ate.
But in a work environment, a sunbae is the Korean term for a person with more work experience in the industry while a hoobae is what you call the person with less.
Anti and multi
An anti is just another word for hater. If a person is an idol’s anti, they are highly critical of that idol and they probably stir up unnecessary drama on the timeline.
A multi is a person who stans various groups. A person is more likely to call themself a multi if they really purchase merch from all their faves. You can listen to several artists without identifying as a multi stan.
Hard stan and soft stan
A hard stan is a fan who is sexually attracted to their idols. This doesn’t have to mean that they only view them in a sexual way but they’re definitely thirsty AF. They prefer seeing sexier concepts and dance moves.
On the other end of the spectrum is the soft stan who likes watching their bias do aegyo (a cute display of affection). They’re the type to tweet something about how their bias must be protected at all costs.
The Korean term sasaeng can be roughly translated to stalker. While a delulu is a fan who believes that they have a chance in dating their bias, a sasaeng is someone who goes out of their way to find out an idol’s private schedule so they could interact with them.
There have been instances where fansites (individuals who take and upload high-quality photos and videos of their bias) would try to book the same flights and hotels as their bias. This behavior is unacceptable. Stalking doesn’t only show disrespect for an idol’s boundaries, it’s a crime. There are several agencies that have stepped up security for idols and blacklisted sasaengs.
Selca and selca day
Selca is the Korean term for selfie. So when someone says your bias posted a selca, you’ll probably want to check their group’s social media account. A selca day is the designated day in a month when fans upload their own selfies alongside their bias’. They could imitate the idol or come up with cute concepts for it. Fandoms have different schedules for it. For example, #VAMPZSelcaDay happens every full moon of the month.
Lightstick and ocean
A lightstick is a concert must-have. It’s like a fancy version of a glow stick that you can wave around during concerts. Some lightsticks can be synchronized during a concert so they can change colors along with the songs or show a special fan project message through a lightstick ocean.
An ocean is what you call the effect or illusion created when lightsticks simultaneously light up a venue. A lot of artists have cried at the sight of a huge lightstick ocean.
All Kill and daesang
An all-kill happens when a song reaches the top spot of all the realtime music charts in Korea while a perfect all-kill is when a song tops all the daily, realtime, and weekly charts.
While we’re on the topic of achievements, a daesang is a Korean term for a top award in a music awards show given to the idol or group that has the most digital and physical sales. There are a number of daesang awards such as Album of the Year and Song of the Year.
The Big 3 pertains to the top three entertainment companies in South Korea which are SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment. Due to BTS’ success, however, Big Hit Entertainment has joined the ranks of highest-grossing companies.
A ment is an idol’s parting message in a concert where they show their appreciation and love for their fans. This usually involves crying. Watch a couple of videos if you don’t believe me.
Of course, these aren’t the only K-pop slang terms but we hope that it helps you understand K-pop a little bit more. Did we miss your favorite term?
Art by Dana Calvo
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