K-pop's Sasaeng problem: How obsessed fans are wreaking havoc in the lives of their idols
Many K-Pop idols have suffered because of Sasaeng fans but will it ever come to an end?
The Korean term sasaeng refers to obsessed fans who stalk, follow or participate in acts that violate the privacy of celebrities. The word comes from the Korean word “sa” which means "private" and “saeng” which means "life", referring to the way these fans break into the private lives of these celebrities. The term is very popular among K-pop fans and is used to refer to fans who are trying to locate themselves in the private lives of artists.
A sasaeng is very different from an anti-fan even though their actions ultimately have the same result. Sasaeng fans have a stalker-like obsession with the celebrity that is not normal in any way or form. Anti-fans contrast with sasaengs as their main goal is to see the ultimate failure of certain idols and groups. Sasaeng fans on the other hand want to be noticed by their idols. They have a need to be acknowledged and remembered by their idols and go to extreme lengths for that to happen. Fans are discussing how obsessed these sasaengs are after Lucas’ recent controversy which led to his alleged hiatus.
Reports suggest that a popular Korean celebrity will have at least 100 to 500 sasaeng fans and are most likely to be stalked by about 100 sasaengs on a daily basis. Sasaeng fans are generally females and are usually between the ages of 13 and 22, and who in order to get the attention of celebrities, engage in behaviors that can border on the criminal in some cases. Examples of such behavior include finding celebrities’ private addresses, the location of their dorm rooms or homes, stealing their personal belongings or information, harassing their family members, bullying their partners as well as fabricating scenes to show that they are dating idols to defame them.
Over the years disturbing incidents caused by sasaengs’ obsessive behavior include an instance where a sasaeng almost kidnapped members of EXO pretending to be their manager; one sasaeng leaked BTS’ music video location before its release or when a group of sasaengs followed them around while they were in Sweden. Wanna One and G Dragon have also reported sasaengs trespassing and causing stress to their schedules and family members. G Dragon took to Twitter to warn such fans saying, “Nowadays kids follow me to my house, right to the gates. I understand, but this has to stop. My mother and sister get scared. Don’t hide in the front.”
요즘따라 어린친구들이 집까지 찾아온다.. 현관문앞까지도.. 다 이해하는데 이건 정말아닌듯싶다.. 엄마랑누나가 밤에 집에들어오다 너무 놀란다들.. 숨어있지마라 집은오지말아줘— G-DRAGON (@IBGDRGN) February 28, 2013
The toxic fan culture is not exclusive to Korean fans as there have been incidents where members of the K-pop group GOT7 reported incidents of their families being attacked by international sasaengs, who also leaked their private addresses online.
Why are they doing all this?
One question that comes to mind is what enables fans to believe that they deserve to be noticed by idols. Many international fans blame the real culprit as the toxic idol-fan culture. Fan culture in different countries varies and it is a known fact that K-pop has capitalized on obsessive behavior with the concept of fans being the lovers of idols and vice versa. This concept has enabled certain fans to get obsessed with the celebrities they like. Idols have to do what companies conceptualize as they are bound by contracts.
One proof of idols engaging in questionable behavior with fans is at fan meetings where idols are asked to make fans happy by engaging in romantic eye contact, handholding, head patting, which these fans see in K-dramas between main leads.
These fan events are exclusive and a fan needs to fit certain criteria for entry. Fans who have purchased the most numbers of albums or purchased a lot of merchandise get special access to meet their idols. This in fact is what triggers obsession among sasaengs as they go to extreme lengths to meet their idols.
Is this ever going to stop?
Fans internationally are vocal about supporting their faves when the artist announces that they are dating publicly. But despite being supportive, it has been noticed that fans stray away from artists who are dating someone as it shatters their chance of getting involved with the idol romantically.
One such example is Kang Daniel and how his album sales and views dropped as soon as he made his dating announcement. This fan culture is actually leveraged by K-pop to prosper. Without idols engaging in fan service, their popularity will decrease over time. Fans will have no reason to buy hundreds of albums, as they do not get anything out of streaming videos at an alarming rate.