K-Pop for Dummies

A guide to those new to or unfamiliar of the culture around K-Pop

I think allkpop does a wonderful job of explaining Korean words that isn’t easily translated into English. In fact, I think they did it much better than I would have. The words on this list, though, were more for people who were more familiar with Korean words. If you’re totally new to the Korean language, refer to koreanthroughkpop. They help you learn some Korean through K-pop song lyrics. They breakdown the lyrics to a song and explain to you what they mean. Another option is talktomeinkorean. They also teach Korean in a similar way.


2013 K-pop Cover Dance Festival

Another special thing about K-pop fandom is covering K-pop dances. K-pop artists are known to have synchronized and complex dance routines. Yet they are well-choreographed. Fans all over the world create dance cover groups and learn the dance routines to certain K-pop songs. Then they would compete at festivals like K-pop Cover Dance Festival, which is held in Korea. They would first have to submit their video online. Then, the videos would all be viewable on their cite and it would be open for voting. Certain groups would be chosen to compete live at the K-pop Cover Dance Festival.


Winners of 2011 K-pop Cover Dance Festival, a winning team from Russia

The festival for this year apparently already started. And the final round will be some time in October. You can see more information about the festival here.

Nowadays, there’s a big craze going on around music video reactions, especially for K-pop music videos. A YouTuber would record their initial reactions to a K-pop music video. Many YouTube audiences find these funny and interesting to see. They also comment on their page, requesting other music videos for them to see and react to. These YouTubers start to grow more subscribers and even fans. Some well-known YouTubers that react to K-pop music videos are JREKML, kspazzing, misterpopotv, and freshlyFLIPPED. MRJKPOP.





JRE started his first music video reaction to then rookie group B.A.P’s “Warrior.” That video was growing in views, reaching to 5,000. After that, he decided to take YouTube more seriously. He teamed up with his cousin, KML, and started his own channel called JREKML. Together with KML, he continued to make reactions to K-pop music videos. Currently, he has about 222,000 subscribers and on Twitter about 30 thousand followers. To see more about how he came about to making videos on YouTube and how K-pop influenced his life, watch “Draw My Life” video down below.

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And for an example of music video reactions JREKML make, watch this video (a reaction of EXO’s “Call Me Baby”).

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Some YouTubers do not just react to the content of the music video, but also breakdown the musical elements used in the K-pop song itself. YouTuber MRJKPOP does just that in all of his music video reactions. He himself dreams to be a producer for K-pop singers someday. Watching his reactions make me appreciated more of how the songs are produced. He really goes into detail, breaking down everything from the song. You can really see his passion for music and why he loves K-pop songs so much. You can check his YouTube channel here and you can watch one of his reaction videos below (he reacts to Girs’ Generation’s “Catch Me If You Can”).

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What’s special about fandom in Korea is that fans aren’t in the dark, only able to love celebrities from afar. Of course, that can happen, but K-pop celebrities, in return show their love for their fans. They are actually very caring to their fans. There’s this strong bond that they make. Fans show their support for their stars and the stars in return, gift their fans in thanks. And they would communicate with their fans through online sites, such as Facebook, twitter, or Instagram.

This picture below shows boy group Super Junior (although only a few of them are there) with his fans. On this day, Super Junior thanked their fans for coming to see them perform on music program Inkigayo. They bought a coffee cart for them (you could see the sky blue cart in the very back along with a banner in front) with their own money. You could read more about this post on allkpop.


Gifting their fans this way is very common. Raina and San E, who collaborated on a song last year, also gifted their fans who came to watch them perform. Since the fans were waiting all day in the hot weather, Raina and San E gifted them with honey water (as you can see in the photo below).  Since they prepared a total of 200 cups of honey water, not only did they offered drinks to their fans, but fans of other artists as well.


Artists not only buy drinks for their fans, but even prepare small gifts for them. One of the members from B2ST, Hyunseung, who promoted solo this year, gifted 350 of his fans who came to watch him perform at Inkigayo with small plants.



In addition to all the gifts they send, they cheer on students who have to take their college entrance exams. These exams are very important to students in Korea as they determine where they would go to college and their whole life counts on it. Since their exam was on November 13 last year, many idols started to upload videos of them cheering students. In order see these videos of stars supporting their fans click here.

Seeing all these articles of artists showing their fans in Korea makes me happy, yet upset at the same time. What about their million other fans who do not live in Korea? Of course, that’s expecting too much from the stars. But all this love these fans get to receive directly from these stars makes me jealous. I know these artists think about their international fans, too. I understand. That is why they hold fan meetings and concerts/tours overseas, too. Now that I mention it, I can’t wait to see them at KCON in LA this July!

K-pop fans go to a whole other level to show their love and support for their favorite artist. They’d devote their time and effort even if they have full-time jobs!

An official fan club for a certain group is created by their entertainment. They’d also select a name for it, usually that’s related to the name of the group. Not only that, but they also have an official color for their fan club. The color even has to be specific. For example, the official color for fan club of Super Junior is blue. On the other hand, the official color of SHINee’s SHINee World fan club is pearl aqua. They sound the same, but they’re apparently different. You can see the pictures below of each fan club’s balloon.

balloon balloon1

The top one is a blue balloon and the bottom one is a pearl aqua balloon.

The club would also have rules and official gear, such as a raincoat, glow stick, and an official membership card. And every year, they’d open up a new term, allowing new fans to sign up for the club.


Being part of the club, the fans try to represent their artists well, such as sending donations to charities under the artist’s name. They’d even go to the extent of sending them gifts and food to support their artists. Some create certain services, even small businesses. An example of a service they’d make is one that teaches fans how to dance like how the K-pop artists do. Another service is publishing and translating lyrics and updating news on their artists. These are all ways they can help their artists be recognized. Jenny Kim, one of the co-founders of pop!gasa.com, uses a lot of her free time to translate song lyrics into English. Although she has a full time job, she’d download songs as soon as they’re released at midnight in Korea and translate them. Grace Lee, another co-founder of pop!gasas.com, has connections with certain entertainment agencies who give her lyrics to the songs. After she translates the lyrics, she asks fan clubs to spread them around online. Of course, pop!gasa has been recognized for her translations, even from Jin-young Park, founder of JYP Entertainment, for translating one of his songs. Pop!gasa also created apps so fans can access her translations from their phones.

Fans are not always these angelic. There are a group of fans who do hateful things to rival celebrities (or those who just hate them). They are called anti-fans (or just antis for short). They’d write hate mail or even write death threats in their own blood and send them to the artist. There was one case when an anti gave a drink to TVXQ’s Yunho that was filled with a poisonous substance (read more on allkpop).

Even with just the fans, they can start things like fan wars, where fans from different clubs would start “wars” online or even in person against each other. In 2008 Dream Concert, a member from Girls’ Generation fan club SONE was disrespectful to other clubs. As a way of boycotting, other fan clubs did not cheer for Girls’ Generation when it was their turn on stage. Image such silence at a performance.

All of these things happen in Korea, but what about in America? I will update a post about that soon.


Read more about K-pop fan clubs at WebCite and The Wall Street Journal. And to see a full list of fan club names, colors, and even their meanings on soompi.

The K-pop celebrities are willing to do anything, even drastic measures, in order to obtain slim figures. It’s an even harder pressure on the celebrities when some agencies set restrictions to their diet. In August last year, a girl group called SISTAR confessed in an interview that their agency, Starship Entertainment, were especially strict while they were trainees. Their manager kept track of everything that they ate, even every piece of kimchi, a Korean side dish. Not only is this very controlling, this does not provide enough energy for the girls to train. They would feel like they’re going to faint when they must train hard. You can read more on this article from allkpop. Just how did they diet? A couple years ago, all of a sudden, the K-pop celebrities were trying dangerous diets in order to lose lots of weight. They bragged on interviews that they did such and such diets, but in comment sections on a translated news site called allkpop.com, American and other international fans frown at the bad examples celebrities are setting for their fans. They know how this is dangerous for the body as it would lack in crucial nutrients necessary to function. This year, a member of SISTAR, Bora, confessed that she tried the one-meal a day diet. She only ate dinner every day. She didn’t even drink water in fear that she would gain weight (she’s not the only one who believed that; many Korean girls believed that, too).  She now acknowledges that it’s the wrong kind of diet. You can read more on this and what other girls tried for diets here on allkpop.


There are some girls who try to do exercise, too, but the what they eat during the day seem unhealthy. For example, solo artist IU ate apple for breakfast, potato for lunch, and protein shake for dinner. Her dieting method seems a little better than Bora’s but it’s still concerning. This is all that she eats when she does an hour of aerobic exercise (on top of whatever dancing practice that she would need to do).


However, I do think that these days Korean stars are beginning to realize that these diets are ineffective and can damage the body. On a Korean TV show called Star King, one of the contests informed everyone a healthy way to detox the body. After hearing this, girl group APINK realized how they have been dieting every day wrong. They’d usually eat takeout food and when it’s time for dieting, they’d only eat salad or sweet potatoes. The contestant gave them a list of nutrition facts and informed the girls that they were lacking protein in their diet. You can read more here on allkpop.



This month, girl group KARA came back with a new album, receiving praise again from the public for their bodies. On an article on allkpop, it says that Hara, one of the members, makes sure that she eats healthy food, especially vegetables. And then, of course, she would do lots of exercise. The other members also do pilates and horseback riding.



I’m glad that they are beginning to be aware of healthier dieting. But I hope that more people like the contestant on Star King informed more people about this. Agencies should hire nutritionists or something since they have the money to, right?

Almost everyone in Korea’s entertainment industry have had plastic surgery. Some either had double-eyelid surgery (creates an eyelid fold, making the eye look bigger), rhinoplasty (a nose job), jaw reduction (shaving off parts of the job to create a V-shape). For example, in the year 2013, girl group Brown Eyed Girls confessed that they had plastic surgery done. Every time they released an album, they came back with new looks. It came to the point where people couldn’t recognize them anymore. One of the members, Miryo, promised to not do anymore plastic surgery and said that she would love the way she looks. For the longest time, they said that makeup and exercise contributed to making them look different, but the truth came out.

Here’s their debut photo:


And here are current photos:





Because the plastic surgeons have done so well with the surgeries, they look very natural, so no one would have known they’ve done a lot done. For some celebrities, it’s pretty obvious like Park Bom from girl group, 2NE1.


Without even looking at her before photo, you can tell that she’s done plastic surgery.

Girls aren’t the only ones who’s done plastic surgery. The males have done, too. A notable one is Kwanghee from boy group ZE:A. He even admitted on a talk show that he’s done plastic surgery. In the following photo, he is holding a photo of him before he did plastic surgery.

Many fans from America, including me, do not understand why these celebrities go under the knife. They look fine before that. Some leave it to the celebrities to do whatever they want to do with their face since it’s their choice. But what bothers me is this crazy competition the celebrities have. They want to stand out amongst other stars and get it done.


Superstar CL from the earlier mentioned 2NE1 has done fine in her career without plastic surgery. She did mention that her music label, YG Entertainment, wanted her to get some done, but she refused. Props to her for being brave and refusing like that! She is actually quite popular in America! The growing numbers of plastic surgery done in Korea (not just amongst celebrities, but regular citizens as well) just give me the chills. The reason why it has grown so much even amongst regular citizens is rather complicated, but it angers me so much as well. I will probably make a post about it another time.

In America, it’s not that very common for stars to get plastic surgery, so why has it been growing so much in Korea? I just hope that someday, Korea would realize that beauty is not all about the outside. It sounds so cliche, but it’s something people need to be aware of.