‘Stalker’ Obsessive fans
Another concern is sasaeng – or stalker – fans who are exclusive to K-pop, most likely female and obsessed with its artists. High incidents of stalking and invasion of privacy are common. There is even a taxi service catering specifically to these fans that offers to chase the vehicles carrying their idols.
Junsu, a member of the JYJ boy band, became a hot topic after sasaeng fans went as far as planting GPS tracking systems under his car to monitor his every move. At a press conference, his band talked about the pressure they face of fans breaking-and-entering their homes to take photos and steal items and memorabilia. Some have been accused of installing CCTV cameras to capture videos of their favourite stars.
“Last year, we established a support centre for the entertainers. Its role is to offer a counseling service to relieve them from any psychological stress.”
– Jemma Ji, Korea Creative Content Agency
“Sasaeng fan is the Korean term for stalker but without the negative implication,” Stawski says.”People find sasaengs creepy, but why are there no restraining orders? Where are the police to get involved? It almost seems like it’s accepted that if someone’s a K-pop artist, they’ve abandoned their rights to privacy. It’s hard to make laws against sasaengs as well, since they affect such a small per cent of the population, just K-pop artists.”
A spokeswoman from the Korea Creative Content Agency says a new clause was added to the Minor Offenses Act last February to protect K-pop stars from stalker fans, and it has also made other efforts to help artists cope with their fame.
“Last year, we established a support centre for the entertainers. Its role is to offer a counseling service to relieve them from any psychological stress and provide them with an education service and legal support to advise emerging young artists or managers,” Jemma Ji tells Al Jazeera.
Music journalist Kevin EG Perry has written a beginners guide to K-pop. Perry says PSY’s success has been a surprise among K-pop circles, with his unorthodox style earning him the nickname “Bizarre Rapper” before “Gangnam Style” began to gallop online.
With K-pop now prominent in the international spotlight, Perry says its influence will only grow among fans and other performers worldwide.
“The increase in K-pop fanbase on an international level doesn’t surprise me, particularly because of the ease with which music videos are shared between fans,” Perry tells Al Jazeera. “Lots of global stars, from Nicki Minaj to No Doubt, have been influenced by K-Pop videos with over-the-top neon fashion.”