Thousands of fans of South Korean pop (aka K-pop) music bands and dramas in the city are not only coming together for fandom gatherings, but are leading social movements like fundraisers for schools and orphanages to celebrate the bands.
“In 2007, I discovered a South Korean girl band called Girls’ Generation, who were one of the early trendsetters of Korean pop (K-pop in short) music and liked their music. Gradually, I began exploring a lot of Korean music and dramas and fell in love with them. The Korean espionage drama Iris got me really hooked on to K-pop. In 2009 I started a Facebook group, The Dorama Club, to bring together people interested in popular dramas and music from Korea, China, Japan, Vietnam and other Asian countries,” recollects Sanjay speaking to DT Next on how his interest in South Korean culture began.
Catching up with the K-Wave: Eventually, India caught up with the Korean Wave (a term that refers to the rise in global popularity of South Korean culture, Korean dramas and music since 1990s), starting late 2000s. “After we saw several Korean fandom meet-ups in Chennai, hosted along with the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea, I decided to form a social media group dedicated to Korean dramas, music and culture named The K-Wave India,” adds Sanjay, 37, the founder of The K-Wave India Facebook community. Through the digital forum, which has about 2,000 active members, he facilitates fans of various Korean music bands and dramas to meet in person, as well for quiz competitions, food fests, etc. “Our offline meetups are among the largest in the country with at least 400 members being part of our gatherings. What started as a group of 5-6 people taking interest in other Asian cultures is now a huge community pledging their allegiances to different fandoms,” elaborates Sanjay, who works as a Korean language interpreter for various companies in the city. He had also taken up a Korean language course in South Korean capital Seoul so as to be able to follow the dramas and language better.
K-pop as a unifier: The digital communities allow hundreds of people to come together purely based on a passion and fascination for another culture, remarks Sanjay. “Occasionally, when someone sees another person either listening to the same Korean band he or she likes, it helps them strike a conversation and bond. The logo of girl band Twice on my backpack has made me meet several fans,” he adds.
An army of Korean music lovers: Among the most loved K-pop music bands like Seventeen, Shinee, Infinite, Exo and BTS, the seven-member boy band formed in 2013, BTS, also known as the Bangtan Boys, rose to become one of the most popular Korean bands across the world. The band, which created history in 2018 to be first K-pop group to deliver a speech at the United Nations, has a strong and loyal “army” in Chennai and Tamil Nadu too. Sarojini Arumugam, 28, who is one of the admins of the Facebook group, BTS Tamil Nadu Army, says the band’s loyalists mark the birthdays of BTS members every year. The boy band garners a huge female fan following, which reflects in the online group too — which has about 70 per cent women and 30 per cent men.
Tree plantation drives to celebrate Korean bands: “Apart from organising fan meets and communal viewings of films on the band, we raise funds on the occasion of one of the band members’ birthday and donate resources to orphanages and schools in the city and the state. On the occasion of BTS’s leader Kim Namjoon’s (popularly known as RM) birthday on September 12, a few of our group’s members organised tree plantation drives as a way of celebrating his birthday,” says Sarojini, an IT professional in the city. The digital community is 15,000 followers-strong in the state, making it one of the largest fan groups for the band in our country. The group is also in the process of translating a few of the band’s speeches into Tamil. Sarojini, who spends at least two to four hours each day listening to BTS, says the way fans can connect with the band on a daily basis through social media sets them apart from any other music group in the world.