2:58 pm - 05/30/2013

The Korea Diaries: The Perks of Fangirling Over Nugu K-Pop Groups

If there’s one thing you need to know about me before you read on, it’s that I am a huge K-Pop spazz when it comes to male groups. I have been caught fangirling over nearly every idol boy group to have graced the K-Pop scene for more than a standard 15 seconds of fame. Sometimes I scare myself with how much I know.

While my wallet might not like this notion of more idol groups eating away at my finances, liking numerous groups does have its perks, especially if those groups have yet to make it big in the highly competitive K-Pop industry of today, namely the nugu groups. You know, “nugu” meaning “who,” as in the nobodies looking to be somebodies, those groups that people end up asking, “Nugu se yo? Who are they?” when you mention their name in passing. Some Korean fans may look at me as an unloyal fan for spreading my love to so many groups, but I like to think I just have a big heart that I willingly shatter every time I fall in love with another group.

I have been fortunate enough in my Korea experience thus far to have attended a couple of music shows, fan signings and concerts here and there, and what my attendance at such events has taught me is how to distinguish between the nugus and the popular kids.

What’s great about music shows is that they are like a free concert. What sucks is that they are very time-consuming, but even then, you must trust me when I say that it is so worth it in the end, especially if you get into the live show where you get to see all the groups perform.

The first music show I ever attended here in Korea was Show Champion, and being on a B.A.P high after attending their “Live on Earth in Seoul” concert the weekend before, I decided to go with Babys during the group’s “One Shot” promotions. I had read numerous tutorials on how to go about attending a music show. I had joined their official fancafe and successfully leveled up to get access to the necessary posts. I had luckily gotten the entire day off of work, a very rare occurrence in my life here. And I had gotten my hands on a “One Shot” album, a must-do in order to prove my allegiance to the boys.

I arrived on the scene around 9 AM for a 6 PM live broadcast, only to find a large queue in front of me. There were little pick-me-ups here and there throughout the day, such as when other idols like VIXX and NU’EST showed up and provided some cute fan service to their fans and when I randomly got into SISTAR19’s pre-recording, but for the most part, it was a lot of sitting outside in the cold until fan staff finally showed up at 4:30 PM to organize us for entry into the show. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be done in an orderly manner turned into chaos and left me disappointed in the Baby fandom.

This is what should have happened. B.A.P has a relatively simple system. Fans are put into one of two groups by members of the fan staff, who check for certain requirements. Group 1 is made up of fans with official Baby membership cards and a physical copy of the album. Group 2 is made up of unofficial album-owning Babys. Group 1 gets priority admission, so even if official Babys show up later than the unofficial fans, they get to skip ahead in line. Group 2 does not get to enter until all of Group 1 enters. I do have to appreciate that they kept this system simple. So far, the craziest requirements I have seen are for VIXX. To be placed into the first priority group, you need both a physical and digital copy of their album, the official slogan that you must use to cheer them on during the recordings and their current single’s ringtone on your cell phone. The less items you have, the lower priority you become.

But despite the simplicity of the system, the B.A.P fan staff were not able to get it together, and I’m pretty sure I was cut in line by many unofficial Babys who got to Show Champion much later than me. Plus, I wouldn’t be surprised if some unofficial Babys snuck into the official Babys group because the fan staff just did not have the time to check everyone out and organize the lines appropriately. They didn’t even write down my album’s ID code, as they had tried to do with everyone else’s, nor did they check my ID card.

On top of that, their main fanclub representative did not strike me as the most kind or welcoming person. Sure, you have to be a tough gal to be in her position, but honestly, she kinda scared me, the way she barked at some of the fans. And I wasn’t even there to experience true Baby wrath in person. That same week, I received a text message from a fellow international Baby that I had met at the B.A.P concert and who had gone to the Music Core recording. Apparently, some Babys had cheered too loudly during SPEED’s recording that Baby fan staff approached them and actually took their membership cards away. Another account was recently relayed to me from a Starlight (VIXX fan), who witnessed Baby fan staff scolding Babys for, again, cheering too loudly for another group. These Babys were then kicked out and told never to return as a Baby again. Further add to that the dirty looks some international Baby fans said they received at the B.A.P concert from K-fans as well as the angry fancafe messages aimed at i-fans for supposedly buying up too much concert merchandise, and I’m not so sure if I want to be called a Baby anymore.

Now contrast that with my experience as nugu group C-Clown’s fan, a Crown, at a music show. Incidentally, last week was their comeback week as well as members Ray and Kangjun’s birthdays, so there’s no way I was missing out on it. If I didn’t have to go to work, I would have been at every recording. Nonetheless, I made it to M! Countdown and Inkigayo, and both were just great experiences.

(Note: For residents of Korea, I am in no way condoning taking advantage of the lack of fans for a nugu group to get into a music show. There are limited tickets for each show, so the competition is fiercer to get in with a larger fanbase. However, the more popular groups also get more tickets. I have yet to be denied entry into a music show – knock on wood. You should genuinely want to cheer on the group you choose to support and see them shine.)

I can’t really place my finger on it, but for some reason, my first impression of Crowns was that they were a lot nicer than Babys. The minute I walked up to the line for C-Clown’s pre-recording for M! Countdown, I did not feel the same apprehension I had felt with Babys. Maybe it had to do with their fanclub representatives being all smiles and speaking in nice, happy tones, or the fact that I got fan goods for cheering on the boys for free, or the fact that because they were nugus, there wasn’t much of a competition to get into the taping. I showed up ten minutes before check-in time at M! Countdown and was still able to get in the second row for the pre-recording. And granted that the number of Crowns present at a recording was only about a quarter of Babys, the fan staff easily organized us into the appropriate lines, and everything, including fan chant practice, went smoothly.

Plus, as a Crown, I feel close to no guilt in liking other groups. I even sneakily spied B2UTY membership cards in fellow Crowns’ wallets, and we all went crazy went Infinite appeared on the live stage and touched our hands. At the Inkigayo fan meeting, in which the members just stood on a stage and addressed our little crowd, C-Clown themselves even encouraged us to cheer on Girl’s Day and Geeks when they heard that the reason we had to postpone Kangjun’s birthday party until later on that day was because the Inkigayo staff had asked Crowns to attend the Girl’s Day and Geeks’ pre-recordings in exchange for tickets to the live show. We didn’t end up seeing Girl’s Day because they had enough teenage fanboys to fill the room. Instead, we got chummy with the Geeks fans, learned their fanchants and became honorary Geeks fans for the day. See, we all can get along! Us nugu group supporters have to stick together, after all.

While C-Clown’s fan meeting was a good treat, it’s not nearly as impressive as a fan signing, where fans get real one-on-one time with their favorite idols, not just photo ops. Let me explain how they work.

An announcement will go up during the week leading up to the fan sign on a group’s official Daum fancafe as well as on the sponsoring venue’s events page. In the notice, you will find the time and place of the fan signing as well as where and when you can buy the artist’s album. Even if you already own the album, you must purchase it during this specified time period at the specified store in order to be eligible to enter for a chance to attend the fan signing. (See what they do there?) If a group has a large enough fanbase, your purchase of an album gets you a raffle ticket. Multiple album purchases means multiple raffle tickets and thus multiple chances to win. Then, the store will usually draw 150-200 people out of their magic black box and announce those lucky names on their website the night before the fan signing. On the other hand, if the group’s fandom is still small, stores will opt for the first come, first serve system, in which the first 100-200 people to purchase the album in the allotted time period are automatically granted a ticket into the fan sign. So, already, you can distinguish which groups have made it further in the industry than others based on which system the store implements, and perhaps already, you can see how much easier on your wallet and your happiness getting into a nugu group’s fan signing can be.

I have yet to be one of the lucky ones to win entry into a lottery-based fan signing for groups like B.A.P, Infinite and even U-KISS. Honestly, I don’t even know why I bother trying because all I have to show for it now are multiple copies of the same albums. Seriously, what am I supposed to do with these? I guess it’s just that small glimmer of hope that I may one day be a chosen one. At least with a nugu group, I can buy multiple albums with a guarantee that they will be signed. Plus, possibly getting seven minutes in heaven with these idols is just about priceless, so yes, I am more than willing to make this sound like prostitution and shell out the dolla’ bills for it.

My first fan signing was with the nugus of nugu groups, AA, one of the few groups I actually didn’t know much about but thanks to my fellow writer Sami, I now know plenty. It was because of Sami, in fact, that I ended up being first in line to buy the album as a birthday gift to him and thus automatically get myself a ticket into their fan signing that same weekend. While I’d love to take you step by step through my amazing experience with AA, I think I’ll have to save that for a separate post because I have a different point to make here. Just let it be known for now that Aoora said he thought of me when he wrote their debut song, “Because I’m Crazy.”

Okay, yes, I know that statement was made as a complete act of fan service on Aoora’s part. However, it not only gives me some sort of bragging rights, but it also lets me talk about how you can tell these nugu groups really appreciate their fans. Now, I’ve read a couple of fan accounts of fan signs for bigger groups like B.A.P, and they also give plenty of fan service and cheesy answers to Post-It questions. However, the amount of interaction with the members described in these written accounts failed to amount to what I saw at the AA fan signing.

Since I had a slight problem known as a language barrier, my experience was cut a bit short, but having stayed for the entire fan signing to take photos and just watch the boys in awe, I witnessed long and personal conversations that the members would have with their fans. Whereas Post-It questions are often used to conserve time and make fan signings move along quicker, I did not spot very many sticky notes in albums, probably because AA fans were given ample time to ask questions for themselves and get in-depth answers. The members made sure that their fans were happy, allowing hugs and hand holding. Aoora even took my phone to say hi to Sami, who I was Skyping with the whole time, even though their manager had told me I wasn’t allowed to do that.

And of course, if a member got caught in a lull, when he would not have an album in front of him to sign and a fan in front of him to converse with, he was free to chit-chat with fans in the small, intimate crowd even more and do cute little poses for the camera-happy fans. I imagine that a good number of fans who did not get into a raffled fan signing would also be in a crowd for a group like B.A.P just to take pictures, so that intimacy is somewhat infringed upon if your group has moved beyond nugu status.

Although this is a sad thing to say, it’s also a blessing in disguise for the fans present that AA wasn’t even able to sell the 100 tickets into their fan signing. The deadline to buy the album was originally one hour before the start of the fan signing. However, because they were unable to sell all 100 albums, fans were able to buy more copies during the fan signing to secure more one-on-one face time with these flower boy idols. Just how much more access could you ask for, other than a private invitation to their dorms?

If the heavens do one day decide to shine on me favorably and grant me access into the popular kids’ club, I will surely update you lovely readers on the experience and tell you whether it is as different as I imagine. Until then, I, like the rest of you, will live vicariously through fan accounts while gladly chasing my nugu groups until the day that they become too big and leave me behind.

Source: The One Shots

I read this awhile back but thought it was an interesting article to share after the EXO "no foreign fans" debacle. It goes in to some account about how hard it is to get in to a music show/fan sign.
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footballfina 30th-May-2013 09:18 pm (UTC)
So..... can the seeming EXCLUSIVE hate for EXO and their fans stop now, and can we collectively hate on this entire fucked up system that exploits the fans of EVERY group?
shouldshy 30th-May-2013 09:20 pm (UTC)
laeryn 30th-May-2013 09:20 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I think I'm getting too old for certain things kpop-related because all I ever get from this kind of post is: "duh, I could never be bothered." I am just not willing to spend so much money and time for the "possibility" of getting into a music show or whatever event.
jenny_grey 30th-May-2013 09:25 pm (UTC)
Yeah, this is crazy...I had no idea you had to "prove" you're a fan of a group just to go watch one of those music shows.
hadashi_no_eden 30th-May-2013 09:21 pm (UTC)
The whole fan club culture reminds me of the mafia.
hisjulliet 30th-May-2013 09:25 pm (UTC)
exo_cath 30th-May-2013 09:23 pm (UTC)
This was an interesting read ~

Wow, at how much you needed to see VIXX o_o With Music shows, I always thought that you just queue up and hopefully get in before the show begins and then watch the whole thing till it ends? However with things like comeback stages or pre recordings then it would just be that idol's fans
pentrue 30th-May-2013 09:24 pm (UTC)
I read this article a while back too, and I must say I agree with the writer.

The 'Baby' fandom leaves me physically sick tbh.

Although I support BAP and wish them well, I will never be a baby because 1). I'm too old for that sh*t and 2). The majority of the international baby fandom are tweens who have no clue about the real world and seem to make it their mission to annoy the crap out of me on tumblr.

I'm a recent C-Clown fan but from what I've read of recent fan accounts, they seem normal and sane which is a relief ^^
hearttaek 30th-May-2013 09:25 pm (UTC)
I would love to see all my bias in person but i can never be bothered to do all that to see a fellow human being, no matter how flawless.
pentrue 30th-May-2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
same. who has the patience to queue for hours on end? I've got better things to do with my time lbr. And the fans that follow and stalk their faves leave me baffled as to why the even bother.
nortonamo 30th-May-2013 09:26 pm (UTC)
I have no desire to go to a music show, after all I've heard of them. I'd have to rlly rlly like a group to go to a fansign, unless the event was more than just a fansign.
Concerts are where it's at.
bunica1990 30th-May-2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
nortonamo 30th-May-2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
At a fansign you write your name on a sticky and put it on your CD, so oppa/unnie doesn't get your name wrong; Fans will put cute lil messages or questions on them for oppa/unnie to read.
miuratenshi 30th-May-2013 09:29 pm (UTC)
Apparently, some Babys had cheered too loudly during SPEED’s recording that Baby fan staff approached them and actually took their membership cards away. Another account was recently relayed to me from a Starlight (VIXX fan), who witnessed Baby fan staff scolding Babys for, again, cheering too loudly for another group. These Babys were then kicked out and told never to return as a Baby again.

I will never understand this "love only one group" mentality. It is insane.
bunica1990 30th-May-2013 09:29 pm (UTC)

Just enjoy the music.
bunica1990 30th-May-2013 09:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for posting this. It was a very informative article.

The recent drama at mnet really dampened my enjoyment of the comeback today, but this article really brought a smile to my face. :)
thomaswilmoore 30th-May-2013 09:29 pm (UTC)
I love being a fan, having posters up in my room, buying CDs, DVDs and goods (pretty much about anything I like, not just K-Pop)... but when it comes to meet artists, I only have the will to go when it's easy and cheap (and by cheap I mean free or almost that). Or maybe I just wish I'm lucky enough to run into them in the streets lol.
donttakethebait 30th-May-2013 10:58 pm (UTC)
lol mte.
iglossmyeyes 30th-May-2013 09:31 pm (UTC)
i'm too cheap to even buy a cd so no thank you.
love_allure 30th-May-2013 09:54 pm (UTC)
ita. i like spending money on myself too much. :x
feel_my_mind 30th-May-2013 09:31 pm (UTC)
Yeah, this why I would suck at being a 'true' kpop fan. I was freaking front row at SNSD NY fanmeet and yet all I remember from that day is waiting in line, not really having anyone to talk to (everyone was super nice, let stress that, but I can only talk about kpop for like 10 minutes before I want to move on. I will say, I was ticked off on how fans where treated better) and what I could have been doing with that time (like going to MOMA... for the 5th time, but that is not important). I totally could not to do that day in and day out.

[I only have super happy fond memories of SMTown concert. So there to go to show what happens when I don't have to wait in line. Of they come back at least now you know who wouldn't be looking for floor tickets]
shortysc22 30th-May-2013 11:02 pm (UTC)
that's pretty much my sentiment exactly. I love going to concerts but the fanmeets and lines? Not for me, I don't have the time/energy to put into it.

I'm also very big into country music and my whole family will pile up and we go tailgating but that's such a different environment compared to standing in line. Luckily whenver I've gone to Kpop concerts, I end up meeting friends in line and we don't just talk kpop.
palebluedot09 30th-May-2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
I think what really bothers me about this whole attitude is that it places fan importance on money. A fan who doesn't go out and buy the digital/physical/ringtone/whatever else is required is no less of a fan than someone who goes out and does. It makes me feel bad for young fans who want to see their favorite idols but their family may not be able to afford everything that is required to have top priority.

Edited at 2013-05-30 09:37 pm (UTC)
merely_a_facade 30th-May-2013 09:42 pm (UTC)
(tbh i think it applies to everything in life. if you're rich, you get treated better and you get freebies too! if you're poor, forget about it.)
taecmyheart 30th-May-2013 09:39 pm (UTC)
I understand why ppl may think that VIXX's requirements may be "crazy", but it's actually not at all. If you're a real fan, like not someone who is just using another group's name to get into the show, it's really easy to get first priority. And also you don't need a ringtone on your phone, this OP is mistaken. Being selective like this weeds out the ppl who aren't really VIXX fans, and as VIXX isn't that big of a group yet, spots are more limited so I'd much rather have the real fans go in and cheer for VIXX.

Idk I can't word my opinions well but yeah. It's not hard if you're a fan.
aleash1989 31st-May-2013 04:13 am (UTC)
All those things that you need to be top priority for VIXX cost money, and not everyone can afford to spend their hard earned money like that. Money =/= real fan. I can be just as big a fan as someone who spend $1000 on fan goods even if I spend $0. Money doesn't show that a person cares because money =/= love. Why should there be a monetary value placed on what it means to be a fan?

I don't think there is a definition of "true fan" anyways. I believe that each human is an unique individual with many unique experience, and therefore the way in which people express their love for groups and what the group means to them is going to be different. No two fans will spazz 100% exact same way.

The Kpop industry is not going to last if things keep going this way (among many other reasons). Who is going to want to become fans of something when they hear stories of horrible fandoms and craziness like in the post? It would surely drive people and revenue away. Kpop bigwigs need to learn that the international fandom is very important and a driving force that make Hallyu what it is today ans a big part of tourism.

Oh gosh I've really wrote tl;dr. Whoops.

Edited at 2013-05-31 04:41 am (UTC)
merely_a_facade 30th-May-2013 09:41 pm (UTC)
I've always wondered how/where students in Korea even have the time or money to wait in line for 8+hrs? Don't they have hw? part-time jobs? responsibilities? something? Sorry, I'm a bitter, recently graduated & unemployed undergrad
love_allure 30th-May-2013 09:48 pm (UTC)
i'm guessing their fandom is their outlet, so anything that pertains to their ~group~ they can stick through. besides stanning their faves, i guess it's nice(?) they can talk to people and meet up other member who like the same dealio.
kris_kt 30th-May-2013 09:44 pm (UTC)
My friend was able to be at a music show recording for Super Junior M (Breakdown), she did said that official fans were given priority tho~
She also was able to attend Super Junior anniversary party without even having a ticket.
She has met Yesung, Eunhyuk at their cafes, also Siwon at the King of Dramas recording, she has talk to them personally! She's been to Sukira recording with Sungmin and Ryeowook.
BTW she lives in Korea but she's American~

I personally have met and talk to Yesung at his/parents cafe when I visited Korea so that was nice~
I think is a matter of luck tbh... been in the right place at the right time, however I only know about SJ .. idk how is it with other groups ~
kris_kt 30th-May-2013 09:51 pm (UTC)
Also I have to add ELFs in Korea have been nothing but helpful and friendly to my friend, so a lot of times it also depends on the fandom and the people you meet~

also, I met Yesung twice lol
pon_pon_pink 30th-May-2013 09:45 pm (UTC)
my friend got to see Epik High at Inkigayo and she said it was super easy to get in. like, she registered her CD with the YGCARD number she got, then applied on the website to go to the event and showed up there. it seems YG is more relaxed about this things?
iglossmyeyes 30th-May-2013 09:55 pm (UTC)
it seems YG is more relaxed about this things?

epik high isn't idol group though. i bet it's crazy with big bang.

Edited at 2013-05-30 09:55 pm (UTC)
921227 30th-May-2013 09:46 pm (UTC)
I didn't read it all, but I got the general idea and all I can say is good fuckin luck. If there was ever a chance I happened to be in Korea and a group(s) I liked were promoting and I had time to line up for hours to see them, like hell would I let some 16 year old girl boss me around and stuff. Nobody got time for that mess.
pentrue 30th-May-2013 10:13 pm (UTC)
like hell would I let some 16 year old girl boss me around and stuff.

There would be hell on earth if some snotty 16 yr old told me what to do. I just can't with some of the youngins born in the mid-90s.
rally_pchan 30th-May-2013 10:06 pm (UTC)
That's so complicated... I just want to get in, watch groups perform, and leave.
bunica1990 30th-May-2013 10:08 pm (UTC)
mte....they should have online registration or something
angela_derp_otp 30th-May-2013 10:19 pm (UTC)
attending music shows is so complicated and time consuming, but once you get how it works is pretty simple.

As to how some fan representatives are assholes and some others aren't, it doesn't have to do with the size of the fandom, imo.

I spend years attending music shows as a Cassiopeia, and believe me it's crazy not because the requirements are crazy but because there was so much competition to get in because the size of the fandom was huge, but fanclub representatives were always really nice and calm, and came up with ways to improve the experience and make things fair for everyone. I think it was during 'O' era when during the first 2 weeks fanclub representatives wouldn't allow you to attend more than 1 music show in a week in order to give everyone a chance to see them. I think that was pretty cool and fair.
They also had special slots for overseas fans or fans with special needs. I remember fanclub representatives were always really nice and fair and helpful.

Last year when I was in Korea during EXO's debut era and went to a few music shows everything was pretty relaxed, probably because they were new, but still EXO had managed to have quite a fanbase for a group that had just debut imo.
Shawols in general are very relaxed too.
rylee900 30th-May-2013 11:56 pm (UTC)
Yeah fanclub reps were usually really nice whenever I went as well, it was the other fans that were annoying lol
cast_no_shadow0 30th-May-2013 10:26 pm (UTC)
Besides the sort of insane requirements for getting into these things, nothing in this seemed that surprising. Of course less popular groups are going to be more accessible and have more time to spend with their fans...because they have less fans.

And it's a shame that fanclub reps give a bad name to an entire fandom. It sounds like the Baby's wanted to cheer other groups on and enjoy themselves, and these few people with "power" ruined it for some.
likehooligansdo 30th-May-2013 10:49 pm (UTC)
How ironic, sometimes it seems like the worst place to be a fan is Korea lol.
donttakethebait 30th-May-2013 10:52 pm (UTC)
This sounds like such a pain in the ass idk how anyone has the patience or time to do it. I get annoyed when i want to see someone more popular play on like jimmy kimmel or sth bc i have to try to get tickets sooner and getting tickets just requires me to sign up on a site for free and click a button to claim tickets like damn @ my spoiled ass lmao. I'm too old and poor for dis oop.
shintotchi 30th-May-2013 11:11 pm (UTC)
This article explains EVERYTHING. Just, wow. No wonder sasaengs exist and fandoms get so crazy. The industry makes them that way! You get kicked out for cheering for another group? You have to have requirements to get in? And then you buy multiple albums like they're expensive raffle tickets rather than for the actual music? That wastes so much money, on top of cheating the chart system. It's just an all around fucked up situation.
charlieu 31st-May-2013 12:37 am (UTC)
This was a while ago, but I saw tons of fans cheering for other fans. But I sat next to the DBSK fans, so I can't really say that this was true for every fandom.
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