The Politics of Being a K-Pop Fan: Korean Fandom and the “Cancel the Japan Tour” Protest

Jennifer M. Kang


This article focuses on the online protest by Korean K-pop fans during the 2019 trade dispute between Korea and Japan. Several fandoms demanded that entertainment agencies cancel upcoming concerts in Japan as part of a nationwide boycott of Japanese brands in Korea. An analysis of the tweets under the hashtag #Cancel_Japan_Concert indicates that the Korean fans challenged the dominant discourses surrounding K-pop by (1) evoking the Korean-ness of the entertainment agencies that manage the K-pop groups by arguing that they should cancel the concerts because of the heightened domestic anti-Japanese sentiment, (2) emphasizing their role as moral caregivers by criticizing the agencies for treating K-pop idols as commodities, and (3) pointing to the lack of a “real” world tour in the idols’ concert schedules. These findings reveal that K-pop functions as a space in which Korean fans imagine alternative identities that transcend their popular image as embodying a collective nationalistic attitude toward the genre.


K-pop, Korean Wave, fans, nationalism, globalization

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