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Monday, April 15, 2024

Reasons why some K-pop fans are outraged by their idols’ love scandals

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Karina of Aespa issued a handwritten apology on March 5 after her relationship with actor Lee Jae-wook was revealed by the media. The confession led to a 3.5% drop in SM Entertainment’s stock price, showcasing the financial impact of idols’ romantic revelations. Fans’ strong reactions are attributed to the entertainment industry’s business model, where devoted fans contribute significantly to idols’ earnings through album purchases, merchandise, and concert attendance, creating a pseudo-romantic relationship dynamic. #karina #aespa #kpop #kpopfan #fandom #korea #korean #kdrama #relationship #sm #smentertainment #lovescandal #ningning #giselle #winter #joy #jennie #kai #idol #fyp #daily

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On March 5, Karina of SM Entertainment’s popular girl group Aespa wrote a handwritten apology and posted it on her Instagram. The apology was made because the South Korean media Dispatch revealed her romantic relationship with actor Lee Jae-wook. Reactions were divided. Some people questioned whether a relationship between a young man and a woman is something that requires an apology, while others said that idols shouldn’t be in relationships.

It’s not uncommon for highly popular idols to be in a relationship. Karina, Jennie, Jihyo, Jisoo, Joy, Kai, V, and many other famous idols have been in relationship scandals. In fact, just one day after Jennie and V’s alleged relationship broke, YG and HYBE both experienced stock price drops of 5.25% and 6.25%, respectively.

Karina from aespa, right, and actor Lee Jae-wook at Prada’s 2024 Fall/Winter Men’s Collection fashion show in Milan on Jan. 14. [PRADA]
This time was no different. SM Entertainment’s stock price dropped by 3.5% ($50M) after Karina admitted to a relationship with actor Lee Jae-wook on February 27. Just recently, a truck with an LED display appeared in front of the SM Entertainment building. The display demanded an apology from Karina for “betraying her fans,” raising questions for the public.

Worldwide, celebrities’ relationships are always a hot topic. But why do fans react so sensitively and sometimes angrily to K-pop idols’ relationships? The answer lies in the entertainment companies’ target audience and the way they do business.

It’s not just the music that makes idols successful. There are many other factors that go into their success, including their ability to sing, stage manners, dance moves, appearance, and fan services. Some fans don’t hesitate to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on their favorite idols, sometimes even giving them gifts to attract their attention.

Some argue that the way the entertainment industry manages fandom creates a pseudo-romantic relationship, meaning that idols are supposed to be everyone’s lovers, not just one person’s lover. Indeed, some fans purchase multiple albums to secure a spot at a fan signing event with their beloved idol, or they invest thousands of dollars to increase their odds of engaging in a one-minute video call with them.

In fact, idols make money not only from the overwhelming majority of people who listen to their music but also from the relatively small number of devoted fans who buy albums, purchase related merchandise, and attend concerts.

This is because it’s more profitable for a single individual to attend a concert by an idol group than for 100,000 people to listen to a song at the same time. Some fans also buy more albums than they need to win fan signings because they want to interact directly with their favorite artists. Recently, platforms such as Weverse and Bubble have emerged that make one feel like they’re having a one-on-one chat with their favorite idols. For a subscription fee, users can send messages to their favorite idols and view the idols’ messages and photos to their fans.

In the strictly business-like idol entertainment industry, fans may be more concerned about their idols’ relationships because they don’t want their favorite idols to be beholden to one person. This is why some fans say, “It’s okay for them to be in a relationship, just don’t get caught by the media.”

If fans are disappointed in their idols’ relationships and decide to stop supporting them or move on to other idols, the flow of money will naturally be diverted elsewhere. This is why the entertainment industry is cautious, worried, and wary of news of love scandals.

BY JUNHAN PARK      [park.junhan@koreadaily.com]