Recently in NU’EST’s fandom, LOΛE, there was a pretty hilarious situation (which fortunately ended as of today). May 21 marked NU’EST member Aron 26th birthday (Korean age), and the fandom trended the celebratory hashtag #은하수별_아론_생일축하해 (translates as “Galaxy Star Aron, Happy birthday”) on Twitter. However, few days later, few people from 4 fandoms – Wannable (Wanna One fandom), Army (BTS fandom), EXO-L (EXO fandom), Buddy (GFRIEND fandom) – used the same hashtag to celebrate 5 idols (2 from Wanna One, and 1 of each remaining fandom mentioned) birthdays, without realizing their bias name wasn’t even mentioned in the hashtag (okay, the case with Eunha of GFRIEND is slightly understandable because first 2 hangeul in Aron’s hashtag is actually matching Eunha’s hangeul name).
This constant confusion reminded of those kind of tweets/posts/comments I always hated seeing even back when I still had zero knowledge in Korean. So, today I’d like to talk about ignorance of some K-pop fans towards what’s most dear to their idols – Korean language.
If you’ve been constantly annoyed by endless “speak English”, “English please/plz”, as well as “where tf are the subs” three hours after release of favorite variety show’s newest episode, and such sort of comments from i-fans – welcome to my
TED talk discussion post.
Warning: I have zero intention in sugar coating my words, so whatever I say here (or in any other post on this blog) – is said honestly and fully reflects my thoughts.
First of all, quick recap.
I’ve been into K-pop for 9 years, and have gone through several stages of a K-pop fan. That included the stage when I got so tired of always heavily relying on subs, I decided to self-learn the language. I started learning after I quitted Russian fansubbing team for SHINee fandom, which was around 2014. As of now, I manage to understand up to 70-80% of what’s being said without translators, and I have survived 10 days in South Korea mostly using Korean.
Now here’s the thing. I have a clear understanding that not everyone has the same ability to quickly pick up a new language like I do (trust me, I know it, because I had experience in teaching Russian language to people of different age range), and I never would require someone to become fluent in a completely new language within a year or something like that.
But what I clearly despise is the fact that there are a lot of K-pop fans out there, who has been in K-pop for not 1 or 2 years, but longer, and never for once they have thought of trying to learn the language their idols speak in. And I’m not talking about a specific group of people that we usually would call “koreaboos” who are just so obsessed with Korean culture they pretend to be Korean – they are a completely different category that I might one day talk about. I’m talking about those K-pop fans who only rely on subs and don’t even bother to check some information before tweeting, for example: there was a case when a specific fandom just trended a hashtag completely unrelated to their artist because they (somehow! gosh) thought that it was about their faves. Or when a fandom tweets random stuff about their favorite group mentioned in the trending hashtag without fully understanding the meaning of it (and by not fully understanding I mean that the hashtag initially had a negative weight). Or, like what I mentioned in the intro to this post, using the congratulatory hashtag without searching the meaning to send birthday wishes to a completely different idol.
My point is I can’t understand how in the world a person can be a long-term K-pop fan and never for once think of trying to understand idols’ native language? Okay, you don’t have time for that yet. But you still want to use some Korean words to show support.
(Warning, just don’t become a koreaboo at some point!) What do you do? Exactly, go ask someone who knows the language to help you. Don’t go mindlessly use the first lengthy suggestion when you plan to join the hashtag party. Go check your timeline, go to your massive international fanbase accounts: they all have the most correct information on what you should be trending with your tweets. Be a responsible fan. But honestly, let me ask you: would you even dare to call yourself a fan, if you can’t simply memorize your bias name in hangeul? I always thought that it’s the most basic thing you should remember once you decide to become a K-pop fan and a part of a specifically chosen fandom. Like, even before learning honorifics (오빠 / 언니) or simple words as 사랑해. Let me tell you the biggest secret: learning the hangeul is the easiest thing to do. (Now, don’t mistaken it with learning the language itself, okay? That’s a totally different thing.) Really, if you take your time, you’d learn the Korean alphabet within less than a week. But imagine how easier your life is gonna be when you’ll be able to differentiate hangeul used in hashtags and save yourself from unnecessary embarrassment due to your, let me say it straighforwardly, ignorance. Just. Imagine.
If you, for some reason, don’t have time to learn the language yet, but you want to use Korean in your tweets, you should follow an uspoken rule for every K-pop fan related to Korean language:
- Know your bias names in hangeul. It’s really simple: you joined the fandom, you HAVE to know your bias names in hangeul in order to not mistaken in for another artists when you trend a hashtag.
- Check information before tweeting in Korean/with Korean words. For example, birthday hashtags. Always check with your fanbases about the hashtag before tweeting. Usually each fandom has at least 1 common fanbase that gives you regular updates on hashtags to use. Or ask those who knows Korean.
- Learn the most basic words. I mean, we can leave comments under idols’ SNS posts in English, but I really suggest to learn basic words in Korean just because not everyone speaks English in South Korea. Words like “Hello” (안녕), “I love you” (사랑해), “Thank you” (고마워), “Fighting” (화이팅) and most important, “You’ve worked hard” (수고했어요 / 고생했어요), in my opinion, should be compulsory for all of us K-pop fans.
In my personal experience, once I started knowing these stuff, it didn’t take me that long before I picked up my first study book, and got myself immersed in learning such beautiful language that is Korean.
So now onto the other side of this coin.
Honestly speaking, the other side of this topic coin doesn’t make me happy either. Yes, it’s about another group of people who shamelessly type “English please” during live broadcasts.
Now we all know this broadcasting platform called V Live that is used by many idols to communicate with fans. Usually when I watch V Lives, I turn off the comment section because a) it’s distracting me from focusing on what my idols are talking about b) there’s a whole unpleasant amount of comments that consist of the most annoying sentence I’ve ever read: “speak English”, or “English please”.
Well, you see. English is not my first language. Before English, I speak Russian and Vietnamese, but I don’t go around and make people just speak to me in languages I understand and they don’t. Why, do you think, learning foreign languages exist as a subject? English may be considered international language, but it doesn’t mean you have to make every single person on Earth speak it, because if so, then why the humanity would even create thousands of languages in the first place? Sure it would have made our lives much easier if only one language existed in the world, but the fact is: it’s not. And here’s the thing: idols are too busy to have time to learn the new language. Their schedules are so hectic, they even barely have time to rest, not even to mention doing something as time consuming as foreign language learning. Of course, respect to those who still manage to learn English, but again, this can’t be applied to EVERY single idol. And since, technically, we have much more spare time than our idols do, we should show some consideration and at least try learning the language. It doesn’t matter how long it should take, the point is, you’re doing it. And the fact that, at some point of future, if you ever get the chance to meet your idol, you will have not one, but two languages to use when speaking to each other (that, of course, in a situation when your idol somehow manages to conquer a new language in between schedules).
We keep talking about how we want to feel ourselves closer to our faves, then why so many people never consider learning Korean as an actual way to feel closer? The biggest pros of it is that you will be able to understand what your faves are saying without impatiently waiting for subbing team to translate it! My another pet peeve are those people asking for subs literally 2 hours after the raw file was uploaded on K-shows database website. Like, do they really expect people to translate a 1-hour long content within such short amount of time? And I’m not talking about only the translation part: subbing includes translating, proofreading, timing and typesetting. If you want your subs to look nice and crisp, you outta wait for that, you know it?
So whenever I see such ignorant people comment, “speak English”, “English please”, and etc., I personally just want to smack those people with an ultimate ban for their accounts and a kick-out from the K-pop fandom. A person must show basic respect regardless of whether their idols (or role models) can or cannot speak English. If you’re in such of a need of constantly hearing English, go stan English-speaking artists. Don’t come at foreigners and require them to speak your language, when you, indeed, don’t speak theirs. Basic respect is always the key to healthy fangirling/fanboying, and nothing will change that.
Next time before you go complain about either lack of subtitles or lack of interaction with i-fandom, try to put some efforts in shortening that language barrier yourself. If you can’t wait for subs – learn the language; if you want to have higher chances of interacting with your idol – learn their mother language. It’s not that hard to understand, you know.
Thank you for reading this whole god damn post.