As Kpop experienced various growth, its fan community and fandom also went through numerous changes.
During the 1980s, Korean pop culture was still in its early formation. At the time, there were no such established fandoms like today, but it was easy to see lines of fans queuing up to buy cassettes of their favorite artists. Recordings of performances are also highly sought-after.
The 1990s introduced us to the explosion of early Kpop, with the birth of legendary groups such as Seo Taiji and the Boys, H.O.T, g.o.d, Sechs Kies, Fin.K.L, and S.E.S. This period is also the very beginning of “fandom culture”, where fans of the same artists gather together, wearing the same color raincoats or balloons to set themselves apart. In addition, “idol merchandise”, which are goods released under the names of famous artists, such as Fin.K.L’s bread or H.O.T’s DNA necklace, also became popular items.
During the late 2000s, “cheering balloons” started to be replaced with fandom-specific lightsticks. As the internet was not too popular at the time, fans mostly support their idols by buying physical albums and watching TV performances.
This period of time marks a significant change as companies begin to produce more diverse, quality albums with numerous inclusions. Especially the birth of photocards. Not only do fans buy albums to collect photocards, they also hope to win the chance to attend fansigns to interact with idols in person. Fans’ willingness to spend started exploding even more in the 2010s. Besides, charity projects in the name of idols were also carried out more often, especially on their birthdays. Promotional projects also range from domestic to international, from social networking platforms to vehicles such as airplanes or helicopters. All of them show strong support from fans.
The rapid growth of technology has brought artists and fans closer together. Through online platforms, the interaction between fans and idols is getting closer than ever. If before, fan signing events were only for domestic fans, now international fans can also participate thanks to online fansigns. More versions of photocards has also stimulated more album purchases from fans.
It is uncertain how much fandom culture will continue to grow and change in the coming years, but it is safe to say that fans’ support for K-pop idols will always be solid.