FANCLUBS: PT 2 – Etiquette, Antis and Perks

We’ve added some new fan clubs to our list of fan clubs in PT.1. Boice, The Cloud, Lucky SE7EN and others now have representation on the list! Currently G.NA is in the process of choosing her fan club’s name! Expect her to be added soon as well!

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Scene from the drama You’re Beautiful with some A.N.Jell fan club members surrounding who they think is a potential new fan.

With fan clubs in Korea there is a certain protocol that goes hand in hand with being a fan. It’s not easy come, easy go “everything is sunshine and daisies” unfortunately. In fact, there is a kind of exclusivity to official fan clubs.

Some fan clubs are free to join, but for a number of official clubs fans are required to register themselves and then pay a registration fee. Some clubs require them to go through a quiz to determine if they’re really a fan of the artist or not (yes, that You’re Beautiful drama did not lie). Registration may be open year-round or it might be annually. In the case of the Super Junior fan club, E.L.F., it only opens up once a year and then a registration fee of USD $43 is required if you are an international fan. If you’re registering from Korea and have a Korean ID then it’s USD $15 (fees vary – in 2009 it was $8.00). What makes the process even more intense is that the window of time to join the club is limited.

SM Entertainment and JYP may open registration to new fan club members but close it once the maximum number is reached. To join Wonderfuls, the Wonder Girls’ fanclub, a fan needs to register at the daum café site but JYP only selects a limited number of fans to join each year. In 2010 the window was only open for one week and gave slots to 1,000 fans.

Why? It’s getting more competitive lately to join fan clubs because these “chosen” fans can enjoy some insanely privileged benefits. They are given advanced information on when signings and fan meetings take place. Fan meetings are exclusive to members and it’s a chance when the fans and the artist can interact on a more intimate level. They’re given limited edition merchandise and some get the opportunity to participate in contests where they can interact with their idol on stage or backstage. This is all part of the exclusivity treatment of official fan club members. So that registration fee? It’s incomparable to the benefits of being in the club itself.

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Ahh waiting… Some fans wait outside for Music Core to start letting in people. As you can see, they’re divided up by artist.

Fan clubs make a phenomenal effort to give unwavering support to the artists. Their trust and devotion get rewarded with exclusive merchandise and meetings. This is true for virtually all fan clubs. Once you join a fan club you can expect privileged treatment from the artist’s company and lots of support from fellow members as well – as long as you continue to support the artist!

Supporting the artist?! That’s obvious! But support has limits in the fan club realm. A strange methodology of fan clubs is that they keep their own members locked in a very tight harness.

For shows like Music Core, Music Bank and Inkigayo, the fans wait in lines divided by the artist they wish to see. It’s not a cluster of general K-pop fans hoping to see anyone they can. Fans pick a specific artist they wish to see and from that point on they’re expected to continually support that artist. Makes sense so far, but that logic leaks issues.

If someone previously waited in line with another artist’s fan club and then suddenly decided to switch because they felt like supporting someone else at one of those music shows, they get the evil eye of doom… Well, what I mean by that is they get treated worse by the club they “left” and excluded. It’s looked upon as a traitor move. I guess in fan club terminology, this would be considered a crime. Once someone commits to a fan club they are not supposed to prioritize other artists. It’s OK if it’s not during promotion season. For example, if 4Minute isn’t promoting any new releases and a 4Nia decides “OK! I want to see 2NE1 perform” then that’s fine. But if they decide to support 2NE1 during 4Minute’s promotion period that’s a big no-no.

Recently fan clubs are being more scrutinized by the artist’s companies. Company representatives keep a close watch on activities to ensure that nothing unfair occurs. The companies to an extent take responsibility for any misconduct in the fan clubs of their artists.

The reason is that even fan clubs can’t necessarily be trusted 100% of the time. T-ara’s schedules and announcements are now posted by T-amo but official activities and projects are run through Core Contents Media. Citrine, the official fanclub was shut down in September of 2010 for misconduct by the club’s owner who had embezzled $8000 of donated money from some 30,000 T-ara fans.

The owners are hired by the company to oversee the club’s activities. So whether or not they’re a true fan is anyone’s guess but they are certainly less tolerant of misconduct in their own club. As evidenced with T-ara, the companies aren’t tolerant of misconduct on the part of the leaders either.

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Someone with too much time on their hands! An anti-fan made website which appears to have it all out for girl groups.

At the end of the day, the one thing all fans in a fan club can agree on is that they can’t stand anti-fans (haters gonna hate!). And as we all know, anti-fans escalate things from bad to worse very quickly. Anti-fans spring up just as soon as the artist debuts! The reasons are numerous – too fat, too pretty, too foreign, etc. It’s an endless tirade of petty reasons. The strange thing is it applies so heavily with Korea that if you google “Anti-fan” the next search suggestions are all Kpop-related!

Anti-fans employ different methods of aggression. Many anti-fans generate communities to group up against the celebrity or simply create an anti-fan café where they can freely bash them as often as they want. Anti-fans want to make the celebrity aware of how many non-supporters they have. It’s all done with the purpose of discouraging the celebrity and driving them to quit.

Thankfully there have been less physical attacks than in the past. Physical attacks were common with groups like Baby V.O.X. and H.O.T. Former Baby V.O.X. member Yoon Eun Hye suffered damage to her cornea after an anti-fan dressed in a Pikachu costume squirted her in the eye with a harmful chemical. Kan Mi Youn, another former Baby V.O.X. member, used to receive envelopes stuffed with razors. Dong Bang Shin Ki member U-Know had to get emergency medical treatment after receiving a superglue-laced drink from an anti-fan. These are just some of the examples of physical maltreatment caused by anti-fans.

Recently, physical attacks have ceased and anti-fans have turned to the web for their aggressions. The most common practice is badmouthing on the artist’s cyworld which in many cases results in it closing down. Recently attacks have carried on over to twitter (SNSD’s Jessica is one of the latest celebrities to have to close her twitter due to antis). There are extreme anti-fans who prioritize anti-fan activities over their own and there are regular anti-fans. Extreme anti-fans are the ones whose claims escalate to private investigations, such as the recent attack on Epik High’s Tablo over the validity of his Bachelor’s Degree from Stanford. But lets be aware, not all anti-fans are that extreme. Some just like to use the anti cover as an anonymous cover, a means to express all sorts of aggression online.

Then again, sometimes anti-fans surprise us. There seems to be a deeper connection between anti-fans and artists that almost eclipses the connection between the artist and their actual fans. When Super Junior was in the midst of promoting Explorers of the Human Body, just before the show debuted Leeteuk spoke up “Anti-fans, please support Explorers of the Human Body.” This was made in reference to some of the anti-fan cafes where antis continued to defame the group but at the same time offered comments that encouraged, supported and showed interest in the group’s activities.

The whole overall concept of having anti-fans has a positive spin to it as well. The more anti-fans a celebrity is said to have the more successful they tend to be. That may not clear up up the mess of slander, libel and other rumors, but it does allow some of those worries to slide off the backs of nervous and agitated celebrities (not all haters hate!).

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A snap shot from the 2008 Dream Concert during Girls’ Generation’s performance. The pink is clearly there but all other fan clubs have gone silent.

It’s not uncommon that an anti-fan of one group might belong to the fan club of another. Unfortunately fan vs. fan behavior has already hit many extremes.

One extreme example is the 2008 Dream Concert in Seoul. Twenty fans were hospitalized for injuries sustained in fights with other fans as well as fighting over seats. Much of the aggression was linked to E.L.F. (Super Junior fan club) versus Sone (Girls’ Generation fan club). A few Sones grouped together and made a dash for a Super Junior banner held up during their performance, ripping the banner apart and pushing the fans. The E.L.F fan club turned off their glow sticks during Girls’ Generation’s performance and booed. These two incidents triggered even more aggression between fans. The word spilled out over the Internet and resulted in numerous heated arguments and anti comments on both artists’ cyworlds and daum cafes.

Lately, very few incidents like the one above have occurred. Still, it continues to be a common practice for fan clubs to turn off their glow sticks and offer no signs of support to artists they dislike or, more specifically, their fans.

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Extremely thrilled Sones at the Girls’ Generation concert in Japan

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Our very own Soompi writer Suguishi met and got autographs with all seven members of T-ara!

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If you’re as lucky as this fan, the next person 2PM’s Wooyoung kisses could be you!!

Enough with the negative stuff! Time to talk perks! Our sources in Seoul provide us with some interesting tidbits on fan clubs in action.

While some fan club leaders get outright furious with “switching sides” the T-ara, Kara, and U-Kiss fan clubs all appear to be very thoughtful and understanding of fans who may want to line up with another artist.

Going hand in hand with “switching sides” is also treatment. Our source tells us that the trilingual PLEDIS label clubs (After School, Som Dam Bi) are very considerate of one another as fans. However the source couldn’t say the same about the fan clubs of YG Label artists, sighting some rough treatment for “side switching.”

One of the perks of lining up with a fan club, particularly for a foreign fan, is that you may receive gifts or other items that show your support for the artist. T-ara passes out sunny yellow balloons. SM Label artists tend to have larger support and as a result, tend to have higher quality items like light sticks, banners and towels. Granted those items might not be handed out all at once but the SM artists do have the upper hand on extra gifts if you’re looking to take home something physical from the performance (no you can not physically take SHINee home with you!).

One thing to keep in mind is that autograph signing sessions and lining up for music shows, depending on the artist, there are different requirements – especially if you’re not an official fan club member (then you miss out on the advanced info online and what you need to bring ahead of time). For IU, you would need to bring a physical CD of her latest release and register online before you try to wait in line with the other fans. Similar requirements are in place for 2NE1 and Big Bang. Some fan clubs are more exclusive than others so it’s important to do your research ahead of time!

But hey~ If you make it that far you’ll have no trouble at all seeing your favorite artist up close! And possibly snagging an autograph or two along the way! And if you’re very lucky – a photo to show all the Soompi members “Hey! Guess who I met?” Good luck Soompiers!! Make sure you share your memorable fan accounts with us!