Note: Before you bash me, since the beginning is quite harsh, please read down to the last dot. Thank you 🙂
Chillin by the coffee table, with the friends I’ve come to love as I’ve started to love the phenomenon our parents refer to as ‘obsession,’ I made a promise after a bit successfully healing the wounds an emotional battle left me. The ‘world’ was indeed a colorful place, but not all colors are, in the end, vivid and happy. There are colors of sadness, sorrow, grief. And even in a sugar-coated place, there is decay, waste, and rotting. We all agreed we would have turned back when we first rot to the core, but we stayed because there was still joy left. But we also agreed, that the moment we lost that last thread of joy, we would leave.
I am packing my things now as that thread is finally cut.
2 years ago, the best of my friends and I were enjoying cups of less-sugared lattes by the coffee table, discussing whether we were heading the right way. No, we weren’t about to make a business deal with some conglomerate. But we were about to bargain our youth. All of us, have been K-POP (South Korean Pop Culture) fans for about 3-4 years that time – and all with heartbreaking experiences fans of boyband Westlife would be dealing with much later on. We met through Asia’s biggest South Korean boyband TVXQ, but company and contract issues tore the group apart, and eventually, the fans, and even our friends. And not to mention, the wonderful world we were living in. A world were there was nothing but fantasies – where the only pain that existed was the fact that we weren’t born in South Korea and breathing the same air as them every day of our lives.
We met that day because we were about to give up everything months ago – the world of cotton candy, glitz, electronic sound, glamour, hip hop moves, urban fashion, colorful everything else; and make promises to stay as friends even though we were going to leave the strongest foundation we ever had. Take note of the PAST TENSE. We were. Until EXO came. How pathetic, we told ourselves. Yet another boyband, coming from the same company that tore our first love apart. We all knew it was going to happen and end up that way eventually. We all knew that years from now, we were perhaps going to drink less-sugared lattes that could even be drenched in tears hence salty years from now, yelling how much everything hurt.
Then we made a promise. EXO was going to be the last.
Technically, nothing has ended for everyone – this isn’t like the first case where it was more severe. But in my part, everything has very well ended for the world of KPOP, the moment he left. I am standing by the promise I made to my friends, that when the last straw has been drawn, there was going to be nothing else left.
For the past five years of being a KPOP fan, I think I’ve experienced almost everything a KPOP fan should experience – the only exception being not being able to step on the land of Kimchi itself.
The first year of my KPOP fanaticism was late 2009 – on my18th birthday. For my birthday gift, my mother gave me the gift she’s been promising to give me for the longest time then – a day with her. As a daughter of a single parent who had a blooming business, perhaps I could have asked for more, but what I wanted nothing more back then was a time with her – and I didn’t regret. but aside from the fact that we went to the mall together, I saw the tarpaulin that would change my life for the following five years – an ad of the local release of TVXQ’s 4th Asia Tour Mirotic Live Concert Album. The rest of TVXQ fanaticism is of course, as all blog entries go, history.
What makes KPOP different from other forms of fanaticism is that it promotes one of the strongest types of sisterhood and brotherhood I’ve seen and experienced so far. The foundation, sure, should be absurd to some – after all it’s chasing flower boys or flower girls, but in the end, and I assure you, as an insider, every fan stays because of the friendships and the causes made. My love for TVXQ and EXO has brought me to fanclub ranks; we organize events and we donate proceeds to charities. Yes, we do name the donations after our idols, which may be to some, still absurd, but will that name on the certificate matter more than the names of the children who smile after their stomachs are filled with food? The events where these proceeds come from don’t also grow overnight – they come from months of planning, weeks of conflict with each other over ideas, days of laughter and tears, hours of lack of sleep. And we all do it for free. To be quite honest, most of the best fans don’t spend much time gazing at the photos of their idols. They spend more time trying to do some things to make these idols proud – such as doing voluntary work.
And our friendships? They are start with squeals. Strengthened by laughs and tears. Hardened by sweat and blood.
Helping KPOP artists reach their dreams is also a KPOP fan’s important mission. This is one more thing that sets KPOP apart. In South Korea, every sale counts – because contrary to popular belief, idols earn so little even from so much fame. Fans from all over the world pre-order albums from South Korea, in multiple quantities and versions, with their own saved money to contribute a few cents to their idols’ salaries. A little help in exchange for the happiness they give to our lives. Before they become artists, companies invest in them for their trainings, and when they do get out, they have to pay every single cent. Fans do whatever they can – buying albums to even tumblers and button pins just to help pay back. A different kind of love you don’t see anywhere – a type of gratitude built with dreams for each other. Five years in the making, and perhaps, I’ve spent more than a hundred thousand bucks for collecting official merchandise alone.
KPOP concerts are one of the best events, of course. It’s one of the best ways to connect with your idols. For the past five years, I’ve attended concerts both here in the Philippines, and outside. It was only until in 2012, when I became a fan of EXO, that I first braved whatever there is to be braved to go out of the country to see a concert. It was one of grandest KPOP concerts: the SMTOWN World Live Tour – a showcase of various artists all belonging to one company. That one company that both housed TVXQ and EXO. It was the first time, in my almost 2 years of being a TVXQ fan that I first saw the group. And 7 months into being an EXO fan. Attending KPOP concerts will make you realize a lot of things – and will make you realize what kind of fan your truly are, and how much you can truly give into this passion. Meeting idols through events like these also mean another thing: seeing them in close encounters like hotels, streets, vans, restaurants. When EXO came to the Philippines in 2013, just 2 months after I first saw them, God perhaps gave me the most wonderful gift he has ever given me in my whole fangirling life: when Kris waved and smiled to our direction in his casual clothes at the hotel.
I also experienced the very unique experience of seeing your favorite KPOP group torn apart by a lawsuit. In the world of Korean entertainment, lawsuits aren’t that much of a rarity, but not all groups are powerful and brave enough to go against companies that reek of money and influence – and meet them of course, in court, and at the same time, win the public who judges those who break the norm so much. I won’t explain the specifics of the norm here, because that would take so much space, but think this: in the world of KPOP, there is this idea that KPOP groups are supposed to ‘go to the very end together, forever’ with their fans, no matter what – because it’s like a sacrament. And even if these artists by any chance suffer infringement on their rights and they want to go out of the company, and ultimately of the group (because in the end, the group belongs to the company), it’s breaking promises. I’ve experienced this TWICE. The first one, being TVXQ, like I’ve said. And point on just as when I became a fan – they’re torn already. And the second, when Kris, my favorite EXO member, filed and of course, ultimately, ‘unofficially’ becoming an ‘inactive’ member.
Given all these wonderful memories, and perhaps more to come, you’re asking me, why am I stopping now? Is it because my bitterness of Kris’ departure is so great that I’m throwing everything away? I won’t lie partly yes. Like I’ve said, EXO was the last straw. Although technically EXO is still very much there and intact, and more intact that TVXQ’s case after the lawsuit, I can’t deny losing the best reason I ever had to like EXO – has left. But mostly, it’s because I’ve had enough. Not in a sense that I’m sick of it – but in a sense that I’ve had enough to last me for a lifetime.
The moment Kris subtly confirmed he will just be watching from afar, the first thing I did was to enroll myself at this school I’ve been wanting to go to for quite some time. Partly because I wanted to distract myself. The particulars and papers I had to fix were taking my time – helping me handle everything well. But as weeks passed by, I realized that maybe, just maybe, his departure from KPOP meant mine as well. Before he left, I’ve been struggling a lot in what to do with my life – because I know I don’t want to stay like this forever and I want to study again, study this and that and work this and that. But I couldn’t. Because one, as childish as it may sound, I wasn’t ready to give up my fangirling time. Connecting all the dots now?
Actually no, it isn’t 100% sure yet that he might not return. But this move on his part has enabled me to make a move in mine, as well. A very genuine move. Whether he comes back or not is beyond me. Whether he comes back here or in China is beyond me. All I know is, he has indirectly given me time to find myself as well – myself that is beyond this fangirling chapter. I do not have regrets coming into this world, because it was also through this world that I figured out what I wanted to do from now on.
School starts next week – and with that, ends all my free time. I am, indeed, leaving the KPOP world behind in a week. Perhaps I won’t be attending events anymore, nor stay updated as much as before. I might not even get updated totally. Looks like I will have to rely on friends to catch up on the boys. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop listening to the music, nor will I stop loving EXO and, of course, Kris. I can still love them beyond KPOP, right? Come to think of it, did I not mention that what sets KPOP apart is that everything starts with KPOP, but stays beyond KPOP?
So I guess, POP, goes another chapter in my life. Let’s start the next, then.
P.S. I am leaving KPOP, but I’m not abandoning Kris. Sorry to those who thought of that 🙂