9:15 pm - 08/10/2012

AKP [Op-Ed]: Airports are not Concert Venues

Ever since JYJ‘s big sasaeng scandal in March of this year, most of the dialogue about unacceptable fan behavior towards idols have been focused on sasaengs. Stars like Jang Geun Suk, who is usually known for being very gracious toward his fans, have come out saying that they don’t consider sasaengs to be fans at all, and that their behavior is unacceptable. Before closing his Twitter account, Heechul of Super Junior told sasaeng fans to back off and stop following him around (blaming himself for not being understanding enough). Leeteuk, also of Super Junior, recently lamented that sasaengs had already gotten a hold of his brand-new phone number and were invading his privacy.

Sasaengs make an easy scapegoat. We complain about them, shame their behavior, and hold them up as examples of everything that’s wrong with the fandom. Unfortunately, this can prevent us from looking at other, less obvious things that even well-meaning fans do.

On August 8, 2012, Seungri updated his Japanese blog to talk about Big Bang‘s concert in Beijing. Aside from talking about the concert, he had this to say:

“Today, I want to say something to all our fans.

Yesterday too, a lot of fans came to the airport to welcome us. Around 4,000 people came. For that, I’m really happy and thank you. However, regrettably, there was a notice from China (government or authority) that if an accident happened, we will not be able to do our live concert.

I really wanted to meet all of you.. I wanted to greet all of you with smiles but thinking of your safety, which is important, I had to use the back door. So please understand. My feeling [of wanting to meet you] is same as yours!”

Other news sources reported that 7,000 fans actually came to greet Big Bang upon their arrival at the Beijing airport.

On August 8th, EXO-M and SHINee arrived in Korea, and were greeted by fans in the airport. Luhan was knocked down by crowds of fans, and could have gotten swept away in the crowd if Baekhyun hadn’t grabbed him.

On August 3rd, fans “completely paralyzed” traffic at Gimpo Airport when SHINee and TVXQ left for Japan.

On July 26th, B2ST went through an airport in Malaysia on their way back to Korea. Crowded by fans and security, Yoseob tripped and dropped his luggage, reportedly injuring his leg and elbow. Soon after, he posted on Twitter, taking the blame for the incident and even apologizing to fans who fell from getting pushed by other fans.

Back in May, EXO-M went through the Beijing Airport with no security other than their managers. Fans swarmed. A group of young women grabbed Luhan, keeping him from joining the rest of his group on the escalator. When he finally broke away from the fangirls and got on the elevator, the fans nearest to him continued to crowd him and shove cameras in his face. (In these videos, Kris is blonde and wearing a blue jacket. Luhan is also blonde, wearing a blue and white plaid shirt and a beige backpack)

Do these fancams make you uncomfortable? Imagine being in center of the mob and how much more uncomfortable that would be. Airports are not concert venues, they are public spaces that serve a specific function, and that function is not fan-service. While it’s somewhat customary to greet idols or see them off at the airport, things can get out of control when crowds get too big or too rowdy. I think the blame can be split two ways- it’s partially the fault of the fans, partially the fault of the idols’ companies.

As we saw with EXO-M’s incident in May, a security team is absolutely necessary for top idols. Can you imagine what would have happened if Yoseob had dropped his luggage without the protection of security to guard him while he pulled himself together?

However, even so, a security team isn’t always enough. Companies need to take a cue from Big Bang, and coordinate with airports to use alternate entrances and exits when the crowds could be dangerous. A back exit could have easily saved EXO-M from the chaos that happened in May. This could also prevent incidents like what happened in March 2010, when Super Junior was rushed by fans in the Noi Bai Airport in Vietnam- some fans tried to protect the band by creating a human barrier between Super Junior and the fans pressing in on them.


While many fans feel protective of their idols, no fan should have to put themselves in danger for idols. Some other pictures and videos from the same day showed that the protective fans’ efforts didn’t solve the problem- the band was still crowded and hassled in other parts of the airport. Companies need to take precautions to keep everyone- idols, fans, and other people in the airport- safe.

I can’t talk directly to the companies, but I can talk to my fellow fans. So, this is what I have to say:

We need to calm down.

I’m sure it’s exciting to see your favorite idol in person, but they are not at the airport to entertain you. There’s a reason most of the big stars don’t look at nor interact with fans in the airport- they don’t want to encourage more people to hassle them. They’re not getting paid for their time in the airport, so they shouldn’t be expected to entertain us. Can you imagine if people just ran up to you when you were off work and started demanding you do your job for them right at that moment for free? That’s essentially what fans are doing in the airport.

Personally, I’d encourage some of you to stay home from the airport- your idols won’t miss you. I know that when I travel, I’m certainly not in the mood to wave and smile at screaming strangers- I just want to find my gate and get where I’m going. If you really want to see your idols, go to official events such as signings, concerts, fan meets. These are all events where they’re actually getting paid to entertain you and you’re not invading their personal space.

I realize that some of you will still want to go see your idols at the airport. And obviously the companies also want the idols to be seen at the airport- otherwise they would do like Big Bang and send the idols through alternative routes away from fans. For those of you who still plan on greeting your idols at the airport, allow me to post a few guidelines, which should help toward keeping everyone safe and happy- or at least, not miserable.

1. Your safety comes first! This may sound selfish, but you don’t want to get trampled. If the crowd seems too big or too rowdy, go home and get out the way. You won’t be able to see your idols through a huge crowd- and if you do seem them, they’ll look miserable while getting shoved around. If you get close enough for your idol to see or remember you, they’re going to associate your face with having their personal space invaded and having a generally crappy day- is that how you want to be remembered? On a related note, remember that you are not security personnel and should not have to be a body guard for your idols. Your efforts to protect them against a large crowd won’t accomplish anything, and you could get hurt in the process. Since idols apologize for every bad thing that happens around them, you can bet your idols are going to feel personally responsible if you or anyone else get hurt.

2. Don’t hand idols gifts. A carry-on is enough of a pain to deal with in a busy airport and they probably don’t want to be weighed down by more stuff. Even if they don’t have a carry on, they probably don’t want to get stuck carrying stuff around with them- even a card or a note can be annoying to deal with. If you hand them a bag, box, or envelope, they won’t know what’s inside, which makes going through security even more stressful. If you want to give them gifts, go to a signing or fan meeting, or mail the gifts to them.

3. No flash photography. Camera flashes are disorienting and can trigger headaches and migraines (or worse), especially when there’s lots of them coming from all sides at a close range and the person being photographed is already tired. If you must take photos, turn off the flash. Chances are, the press will have better high quality photos online within a day or so anyway, so there’s no real reason to worry about getting good pictures.

4. No touching! You wouldn’t want a stranger touching you without permission- likewise, your idols don’t want you (a stranger) to touch them. Getting touched by a strangers is, at best, creepy and gross but it can also be scary or humiliating. If you want to touch your idols, go to a handshake or hug event.

5. Don’t ask for autographs (or photos, or hugs, etc). The idols have to get from point A to point B in a set amount of time, and they don’t have time to stop and do stuff for you. I doubt that they want to ignore or turn down their fans. By asking them to do stuff for you, you are putting them in a position where they have to turn you down. It’s annoying at the very least, but it can also make them feel bad for not being able to do something for you.

6. If you really feel it’s necessary, cheering and holding signs is okay. Just don’t get carried away. There are a lot of other people in the airport trying to go about their own business- noisy fans taking up lots of space and ignoring the people around them make things that much more difficult. If you’re holding up a sign, try not to block the views of people standing behind you. If someone’s trying to get through the crowd, let them through. Don’t flail, you might hurt someone. Don’t scream, it’s obnoxious, and can be painful for those around you. Common courtesy, folks.

Bad behavior in airports can result in injuries to the idols, fans, and innocent bystanders who just happen to be in the airport at the time. Like Seungri said, it could even lead to cancelled events. I know you’re excited, but think about how your actions affect people and don’t contribute to the problem.

There are going to be other fans at the airport who probably mean well, but do things they shouldn’t. Don’t let them get to you; just keep being awesome and civil and not making your idols’ lives miserable. If we actually care about the idols, then we need to respect their personal space and try not to burden them. If we’re causing unnecessary trouble for our idols, how are we any better than anti-fans?

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cairistiona 11th-Aug-2012 09:49 pm (UTC)
Not everyone has the opportunity to do either of those. An example is when IU came to London. The reaction was really tame at the airport, and she got to sign and take photos with the fans there. But she was there for a private photoshoot. Those fans wouldn't have got a chance to see her otherwise. They were incredibly well-behaved because there was a maximum of 15 people there, but imagine if there had been more? There were more people for Lee Seunggi, and again he wasn't in London for a concert or a fanmeeting. When could people see him otherwise? (As they weren't here for holidays, I find them better examples than, say, Siwon and Eunhyuk.)
Plus overseas fans generally don't get fanmeets to go to, and not everyone is old enough to go to or can afford to go to their concerts. A friend of mine was forbidden to go to see the K-Pop festival in London, so she followed EXO around London. It was all she could do to see her oppas.
I don't agree with the mentality of going crazy when you see your idols, but sometimes seeing them outside of paid allotted time is all you have.
domokuniscute 12th-Aug-2012 04:10 am (UTC)
IAWTC. I think as long as everything is not over the top it is fine, both the management of the idols (bodyguard team, managers, not leaking info) and fan behavior come into play. So likewise I don't see either one taking the 'blame' for airport mobbing and such and in your above scenarios I felt it was justified? It seemed safe, and both the idol and fans were happy? Luckily the fandoms I am in also do not exhibit such cray cray fanculture.

But good to hear it seems quite civilised in London. I am moving to the UK for my undergraduate studies soon, and I might get idol withdrawal systems XD
cairistiona 12th-Aug-2012 08:01 am (UTC)
I think it depends on the idols...I think we are some of the worst for EXO. I, thankfully, didn't get back to London until the day of the festival but I saw plenty of fancams that made me uncomfortable; people calling Kai a slut and tugging his hair out, and people trying to grab hold of them, and people following Suho solely to scream at him and ask him why he wasn't Baekhyun and Chanyeol (with cameras so close in his face you can see his pores). I was also fairly humiliated and embarrassed with the reaction of the fans once we were in the festival; it was all about EXO for the fans, despite the other artists and the purpose of the festival (they were screaming "EXO!" during the breaks, and chanted for an encore, and I hope the veterans didn't think too badly of us--even though I did...).
There are a lot of immature British fans, I'm just thankful that we don't see them all the time. But we have them.

However, London in general is lovely, and don't let me put you off. I spent four wonderful years at university there and it is a generally great place. :) I hope you enjoy it!
sisterjune 13th-Aug-2012 01:52 am (UTC)
people calling Kai a slut and tugging his hair out

oh my god. what in the blue fuck is wrong with people? geeze I feel so frickin bad for him. (and for every1 else in exo who was harassed tbh but I feel like Kai is already sensitive and wary of people that this was probably the hardest on him)
cairistiona 13th-Aug-2012 09:07 am (UTC)
I know. :( I don't understand what goes through a fan's mind to make them think either of those is okay. There are two arguments given. "There's a language barrier." It's a slur and he probably knows English swearwords, what's to say he doesn't know slurs too? And "They meant it affectionately". In what world is "slut" affectionate, and how would he know it was meant that way?
As with pulling his hair out, I was so horrified I was trying to make lighthearted scenarios that weren't creepy like putting it in a scrapbook, and came up with "they're trying to test their cloning machine" and "they have a batch of polyjuice potion somewhere". Because otherwise it's too horrible to think about. The poor boy.
He really got the worst end of the deal in London, probably because he's the fan favourite. People were fairly polite to the other five (as polite as young teenagers are I suppose) but Kai? Kai got all the "Oh I know him he'll be fine with it" kind of behaviour. And he looked honestly miserable in all videos I've seen of him. I just wanted someone to give the poor boy a hug. :(
cherrypop 13th-Aug-2012 12:41 am (UTC)
But that's incredibly selfish. Some people in other countries... they don't even get the opportunity or the luxury of having the star come into contact with them. Just because you like Kpop does not give you license to follow them around when they're not performing a concert or a fan meet. There's just no excuse. Celebrities don't like being followed in their personal life so if you're a fan why would you put your desire to "see" them above what they want for themselves?
sisterjune 13th-Aug-2012 02:08 am (UTC)
I agree its not good to follow them around, but I dont think its so bad to go to the airport to get a glimpse of them if u keep a good distance away. the problem isnt fans going to the airport and watching their idols board the plane and then going home. the problem is scores of fans going to the airport and then crowding the idols and shoving and pushing each other. plus all the pictures and film being taken. I think tho it would probably be best if companies didnt make it obvious when idols were flying in and out.
cairistiona 13th-Aug-2012 09:09 am (UTC)
This. I think it's the excessive, unorganised crowds and all the shoving and groping that's the biggest problem.
cairistiona 13th-Aug-2012 09:00 am (UTC)
I agree with your last line, which is why I put people who were there for work and not holidays, as the idol companies treat airport appearances as work anyway with the fact they get styled even as close as just in the toilets after their plane arrives, but intriguingly enough I have seen the rest of your comment argued in favour of this situation (though again not in favour of bad behaviour).
Because "we" don't get the opportunity or luxury of seeing idols often (until recently London wasn't even on the K-Pop map, and Paris is incredibly expensive to get to), when they do come, people go all out because they may never get the chance to see them again. It happens for all idols in different levels, but it's going to happen in the countries they don't visit often because of the rareness. And I think people are probably going to argue that it maybe isn't fair to the idols to be followed around everywhere they go, but to the fans it's something special; their chance to say they saw, just once, their idol in person, doing normal, non-idolly things.
However, I think that puts pressure on the Asian countries that see them regularly; crowding Seoul's airport when the idols arrive home is just silly.

I'm not saying I agree. But I'm just trying to give examples of what the fans feel. I was once the type of person who would have followed them around. I went to Siwon's hotel (and tbh I count him and Eunhyuk's "I am at...come meet me" tweets as asking for it, even though they were there on holiday) but the reaction on his face when he saw the mob (which I wasn't part of) made me kind of upset for him, and I swore not to do it again. But I remember the joy I felt that someone was coming to my town, where I lived. This was when only SHINee (with their Japanese fans) and U-CUBE had been, so it was still exciting that an idol was in London, someone we'd not get a chance to see again. I'd missed IU and Eunhyuk, both of whom I liked more, and had vowed to see Siwon. Yes, it was incredibly selfish, but even I wasn't expecting him to be swamped, and wasn't expecting the reaction of everyone to be to just rush him. But a lot of the fans, although their behaviour was bad, felt justified in their actions. We hadn't had an idol like him there before, and certainly not one who asked people to find him.

I'm sorry, that was pretty long. :(
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