Draft:Anti-Fans in South Korean Popular Culture

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Etymology and Characteristics[edit]

An anti-fan can be simply defined as someone who enjoys writing, discussing or sometimes making other works just to negatively critique or rail against a piece of media, or an individual celebrity. It is also a “realm not necessarily of those who are against fandom per se, but of those who strongly dislike a given text or genre, considering it inane, stupid, morally bankrupt and/or aesthetic drivel”[1]. With the exponential increase in the use of social media, most anti-fans of the present act through comments on social media posts, news articles, YouTube, and more popular media. Furthermore, those who are more extreme choose to approach the celebrities themselves and sometimes cause physical harm.

With a primary focus on the South Korean entertainment industry, anti-fans can do so little as post one negative comment on social media, but also directly cause serious harm to celebrities. Negative comments can end up with celebrities taking legal action to further prevent more harm, and more serious cases of anti-fan action can be largely separated into anti-fans who pretend to be fans, physical abuse, and death threats.

Anti-Fandom as a Subculture[edit]

Anti-fans often approach celebrities pretending they are actually eager fans. For example, first generation idol star Gan Mi-Yeon experienced receiving what she thought were fan letters, only to find cutter knives when she opened them. The first one only contained one, but afterwards anti-fans sent multiple knives in one envelope, probably to ensure she cut herself as she opened it. Another anti-fan sent Gan a letter with the content that can be translated as ‘let’s go to hell together’, which she reported because it caused trauma [2].

Next, Kim Ki-Soo spoke of a similar experience when an anti-fan approached him and asked if she could take a picture with him. He mentioned he was shocked because of the two-facedness the anti-fan had shown: according to him, she said thank you three times, bowed politely and was extremely sweet, and then posted the picture online bashing on Kim. Kim spoke of having social phobia for a while afterwards, and found it difficult to look people in the eye [3].

Further, some celebrities also experienced physical violence purely by anti-fans. Model Choi Sora was scratched on the face by an anti-fan’s fingernail, and the situation made it clear that it was not accidental. Comedian and public figure Noh Hongchul as physically abused by a man in his twenties, enough to send Noh to the hospital. While the culprit was mentally disturbed, apparently it was obvious that the person had much hatred towards Noh [4].

Moreover, there have been multiple cases of death threats aimed at K-Pop idol stars such as BTS’s Jimin [5], G-Friend’s Eunha, Twice’s Mina, and all members of Apink [6]. What’s different about these cases is that some were made b foreign anti-fans, and most threatened to kill during overseas concerts. Although they stopped as threats, extreme security measures had to be taken into account to prevent any attempts.

It can therefore be seen that the study of anti-fans and anti-fan action is not rare in today’s society. As a matter of fact, the necessity of studying anti-fandoms is being highlighted often in recent theses about social phenomena and its effects on society and media culture [7]. To be more specific, “studying anti-fan disapproval and/or dislike, then, would offer media and cultural studies meaningful re-entry points to discussing quality, values and expectations, allowing us to focus on the range of everyday viewers’ values, and on how they interact with media consumption, use and meaning”[8]. Hence, anti-fandoms are being recognized as a subculture and a topic separate from ‘fandoms’ and ‘non-fandoms’. Moreover, because of these trends, it can be inferred that anti-fandoms aren’t being treated as the opposite of fandoms; therefore, the methods of study as to how we approach these topics are important in the accurate and fruitful analysis.

Anti-Fan Psychology and Motives[edit]

Cases that were explained above are difficult to control with the spread of social media and most importantly, anonymity. These incognito behaviors are perfect in creating the nervous, yet helpless atmospheres in which celebrities feel most vulnerable. More research must be done in order to understand the motives of anti-fans and perhaps the effects they have on popular culture as a whole. “Just as we can’t truly understand a cocept like gender without interrogating both ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’, we won’t truly get how affect works generally, or even how fandom works specifically, till we explore anti-fandom a little more”[9]. Thus, increased knowledge and research regarding anti-fans will broaden insight regarding the subject of ‘fandom’ overall.

So far, there have not been many cases in which anti-fans openly discussed their psychological motives or thoughts behind how they identified themselves as anti-fans, along with reasons behind their actions towards celebrities both online and offline. This is likely because of fear of acting alone, as people generally gain confidence in relation to their thoughts when other people share the same opinions. Hence, a way to hear these people’s voices is to conduct “small group interviews”[10]. “Anti-fans will often respond to calls for participants" [11]; thus, these opportunities can be taken to take the first few steps in understanding anti-fan psychology.

In a different perspective, when observing fandoms, there are studies that reveal how people begin to join a particular fandom. According to one report, answers range from being introduced to a fandom offline, discovering a fandom online, and finding the fandom through expansion from another cultural medium [12]. We cannot conclude that anti-fandoms grow in these ways; nevertheless, we can somewhat predict that anti-fandoms also expand with more and more people who share the same opinions. This would allow anti-fans to receive mental comfort and act and speak in ways that they may not have used if they were alone.

Anti-fans and anti-fandoms may also be directly related to fans and fandoms. There was a case mentioned above involving an anti-fan approaching a celebrity by pretending to be an eager fan. There are also cases when actual fans become anti-fans through the celebrities’ mistakes and/or news. For example, Jay Park first left idol group 2PM after uploading content online with personal comments regarding his disappointment towards Koreans and Korea as a whole [13]. When this happened, some fans turned against him and joined the anti-fans in telling Park to stay in America, kill himself, and more. Eager fans turns into anti-fans in an instant—hence the psychological inference that anti-fans also become anti-fans because of social issues regarding the celebrity.

With increasing amounts of communication occurring online, the role that fans and anti-fans play in shaping popular culture and celebrity images is likely to grow as time passes. All in all, an increasing understanding of anti-fans is crucial in a more holistic view of fans and the ‘fandom’ itself.


  1. ^ journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1367877903006001004
  2. ^ www.asiatoday.co.kr/view.php?key=890040
  3. ^ 한은수 . “김기수, 팬 가장한 안티팬에 분노 ‘트라우마 생겨 사진도 못 찍겠다.’” 이투데이, (주)이투데이, 22 May 2018, www.etoday.co.kr/news/section/newsview.php?idxno=1625232.
  4. ^ www.asiatoday.co.kr/view.php?key=890040
  5. ^ news.kbs.co.kr/news/view.do?ncd=3453012
  6. ^ https://m.post.naver.com/viewer/postView.nhn?volumeNo=8144333&memberNo=25041664&vType=VERTICAL
  7. ^ journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1367877903006001004
  8. ^ journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1367877903006001004
  9. ^ henryjenkins.org/blog/2010/03/on_anti-fans_and_paratexts_an.html
  10. ^ journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1367877903006001004
  11. ^ journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1367877903006001004
  12. ^ 손승혜 .“디지털 네트워크 시대의 초국가적 온라인 팬덤: 2PM 팬포럼 Wild2Day 회원 인터뷰의 근거이론적 분석.” 『미디어, 젠더 & 문화』, 한국여성커뮤니케이션학회, 2013.
  13. ^ 정덕현 .“연예인의 프라이버시, 공적인가 사적인가.” 서울시립대학교 법학연구소, 2010.11.