Sasaengs: The dark and threatening side of K Pop fan community and its effect on idols

Published on Nov 07, 2021 04:26 PM IST  |  376.1K
   
Hongjoong, Han
Hongjoong, Han; Picture Courtesy: News1
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A sasaeng, or sasaeng fan, is an obsessive fan who stalks or engages in other behaviour constituting an invasion of the privacy of celebrities, specifically Korean idols, drama actors or other public figures. The term sasaeng comes from the Korean words sa meaning ‘private’ and saeng meaning ‘life’, in reference to the fans' intrusion into celebrities' private lives, and the term is mostly used domestically in South Korea as well as other parts of Asia. 

According to the estimates of celebrity managers in the Korean media, popular Korean celebrities may have ‘between 500 and 1,000 sasaeng fans’, and be actively followed by about 100 sasaeng fans every day. Sasaeng fans are described as often being female, aged 13 to 22, and driven to commit what in some cases may amount to borderline criminal acts in order to gain attention from celebrities. Examples of such acts include seeking out celebrities at their dorms or homes, stealing their personal belongings or information, harassing family members, and sending idols inappropriate gifts such as lingerie.

While over the years there have been extremely harrowing situations that K-Pop idols had to endure due to the delusional ‘fans’, the methods used by sasaengs have changed since they first emerged in the 1990’s with K-Pop to today. There are accounts of such fan behavior prior to the digital era from industry veterans and members of first generation K-pop groups such as H.O.T. and g.o.d as shown accurately in ‘Reply 1997’ where fans stand outside the houses of their favourite artists. With the rapid development of the Korean popular culture industry, and the spread of the Hallyu wave internationally in the 2000s and in recent decades, extreme and disruptive fan behavior towards Korean idols and celebrities has also been seen abroad. The motive behind their actions is to reach the ultimate aim of being recognised by their idol and they are ready to do it with any means possible, doesn’t matter if it is good or bad. A sasaeng even slapped Yoochun, a member of JYJ and justified their actions as a sure-fire way to be remembered. 

Sasaengs have developed various methods for obtaining information about idols, and have formed a sasaeng network to share information and form groups to accomplish tasks. It has been noted that sasaeng fans old enough to work will try to get jobs in industries bringing them closer either to their idols or to information concerning them. In 2017, Brave Entertainment, home of solo artist Samuel, dismissed two staff members for sasaeng fan activity that included following other artists and communicating personal information about Samuel.

Nowadays, since the world has gone digital, it has made it easier for a sasaeng to gain access into an idol’s private life i.e private number, private Instagram account, credit card details, etc. The increased popularity of social media has made possible the sale of information concerning idols on social media platforms. The so-called "sasaeng taxi" is a method used by sasaengs to follow idols to their scheduled activities or personal appointments. Such taxis charge an average of $600 a day, and will follow an idol or group for the entire day, exceeding speed limits and breaking other traffic rules. Drivers of such taxis may wait outside venues for customers.

With second generation groups and soloists, the sasaengs would follow them like T.O.P from BigBang, who was photographed on a plane while sleeping or break into their hotel room like EXO’s ex-member Tao who had a microphone installed in the bathroom or the time when 2PM’s Taecyeon’s room was broken into in Singapore. One of the scariest encounters was survived by Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon who was almost kidnapped on-stage during a performance. While performing ‘Run Devil Run’  at a concert in the Lotte World Ice Rink, a fan managed to sneak past event security and make his way onstage, where he attempted to pull away Taeyeon from her performance. Luckily, fellow member Sunny and event security were able to pull him away.

BTS, too, had a scare while filming abroad. Once when BTS was filming in Sweden, they stopped at a cafe to grab a bite to eat and to relax a little. A group of sasaeng fans were watching and waiting outside for the boys to emerge. Unsettled by this, the cameraman decided to step outside and ask them to move. Instead of actually moving, the fans pretended to leave but started chasing after the boys when they came outside. In the last year or so, since all the physical performances and meet-and-greets were cancelled so the online meet and greets is the only way fans can communicate and even then sasaengs find a way to make the idol uncomfortable like Han Jisung from Stray Kids who had a sasaeng wearing lingerie on the call and it was obvious that Han was trying hard to be respectful towards the person or Jungwon from ENHYPEN who saw the sasaeng on his call two to three times and he responded with a ‘yellow card’ in reference to the popular song by IU. 

Recently some groups have had dangerous encounters for example the rookie group CRAVITY had sasaengs break into their company building and harassed some of the members.While the company took immediate action which was applauded by the fans but its no doubt that the group was shaken up by the situation. According to a statement released by ATEEZ’s agency, KQ Entertainment, these fans have been fixing illegal trackers in ATEEZ's business vehicles to track their location. As scary as that sounds, ATINY may be relieved to know that KQ has full plans on taking legal action against the same. 

KQ Entertainment mentioned that ATEEZ's mental health is being affected due to such obsessive behaviour showcased by certain fans. They reiterated their existing blacklist policy and also emphasised that they would be taking stronger legal measures to prevent such a thing from happening again.

ALSO READ: BTS’ Jin renders fans speechless with a moving ‘Yours’ OST for Jun Ji Hyun & Joo Ji Hoon’s Jirisan

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Do you know of any similar situation? Let us know in the comments below.

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