Whether you’re a rookie stan or have been hanging around since the first gen of idols debuted, it really feels like we’re all in this K-pop thing for life. But it’s not all roses; there are experiences and posts that you’ll encounter in standom which will make you want to quit. For those, we’ve created a survival guide.
We had a chat with 28-year-old Joy Lim, 24-year-old Nhes Miranda-Calo and 23-year-old Tanya Saure about the biggest changes in stan culture, their thoughts on delulus and sasaengs, and the hardest lessons they had to learn as fans. Are you ready to take notes?
How did you first get into K-pop?
Joy: In 2004, the K-drama “Full House” aired locally. I loved it and I [later] found out that the lead actor Rain is a K-pop star. That was my first dose of fangirling.
Tanya: [I first watched] Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” music video with my brother, who loves anime and J-pop, back in highschool. The MV was colorful and the sound was catchy kaya na-LSS ako agad. Plus, [the members] looked very cute kaya nahook ako.
Nhes: I was in high school when “Boys Over Flowers” aired in 2009. I remember having a huge crush on Kim Hyun-joong (who played second lead Yoon Ji-hoo). He was the leader of SS501 and my interest in his group trickled down to more K-pop artists.
What are the biggest changes that K-pop stan culture has undergone?
Nhes: The biggest change is how the fans show their support for their biases—they take it very seriously now. They’re more technical. Back then, YouTube views, getting into Billboard, breaking records weren’t such a big deal. In 2009, us international fans could only show our support by joining online forums, creating subbed videos, and occasionally sending out gifts or letters to South Korea. Now, you can hardly call yourself a fan if these are the only things that you do.
Fans are also more socially aware now. It wasn’t important before whether their idols were socially aware and doing things that help society. But now, it’s all the rage. Back then, we even laughed at some borderline racist/colorist/sexist jokes. If an idol says something remotely off now, they’d be scrutinized.
Joy: The biggest challenge back then was getting news about your idols. It was the dawn of the Internet and there weren’t many online K-pop news outlets in English. Those were the days. Haha! What hasn’t changed though is the love K-pop stans have—earnest, generous, and unconditional.
What are the fandom activities that can be changed to create healthier spaces for stans and idols?
Joy: The most important thing a fan must learn is that our idols are humans too. They’re imperfect and we don’t have to put them on a pedestal. You can support your idol and be their critic at the same time.
Tanya: Fandoms shouldn’t invalidate other fandoms or idols. People should respect each other’s tastes and opinions. Fans should also keep in mind that idols are also ordinary humans whose rights [we should respect].
Nhes: It’s the sense of a “cult” for me. When I was still at the peak of my stan life, I policed myself from listening to other groups’ music because doing so was frowned upon. If you clap for another group, it’s considered treacherous. Multi-fandom stans were rare because they weren’t accepted.
Being a fan meant being at literal war with other fandoms. Fans going “rogue” or doing heinous things to other groups was [normalized]. I’ve seen initiatives from the fandoms, however, to call out rogue fans. It’s a wonderful project because we really need to call out fans from our own family.
Got any word of advice for sasaengs and so-called “delulu” fans who believe that they’ll end up marrying their bias or aggressively ship idols with other idols?
Joy: Idols are entertainers. It’s their job to provide you with good music and performances. What’s not part of their job is to fulfill your fantasies. When you’re able to look at your idols without rose-tinted glasses and decide that you can still support them without thinking you’ll end up marrying them, that’s the best feeling and true essence of being a fan.
Nhes: There’s only so much that co-fans can do. Delulus, most often, are just going through a phase. We can call them out when they go over the line. But sasaengs, on the other hand, are criminals. There’s no advice to give to them. They must be dealt with by authorities.
As a long-time Filipino K-pop fan, what’s your most rewarding experience?
Tanya: I got to study sa South Korea and attend K-pop music events. Hearing them perform live was very magical and unforgettable.
Joy: Years ago, I made a promise to myself that my first concert would be Rain’s concert. As luck would have it, he went here more than 10 years ago to hold a concert.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn as a fan?
Tanya: The hardest would be financial management. My allowance before (and salary even now) was just enough for my needs so purchasing K-pop merch or concert tickets was really a challenge. What I do is save up for events na gustung-gusto ko talagang puntahan and less on merch.
Joy: I’m a K-pop collector. I’ve had to learn that no collection can ever be complete and you don’t have to beat yourself up for it. No matter how hard we try, there will always be merch that you’ll miss out on or that’ll go on sale under your radar. (laughs)
What’s the trick to keep having fun as a fan for a long time?
Tanya: It’s fun to be a K-pop fan kasi parang unending ‘yung mga updates sa K-pop. It’s more fun kapag you [do] not stan [just] one artist. Mas exciting kapag nagdidiscover ka din ng ibang idols.
Joy: K-pop is continuously evolving and so should you!
Nhes: Find your people. It’s easy to have fun in K-pop. The idols are funny and the performances are sparkling, and there’s a lot of content to consume. But what will last is the genuine connections that you make.