Fanclubs, Fan Philanthropy and Fan-Gifting Culture 

by Rebecca Kim

To: Idol, From: Your Loving Fandom 💕 

As many of you may know, Korean celebrities have official “fan clubs” for fans to join and actively support their favourites. When a special event comes around (e.g. their birthday), the leaders of the fan clubs organise projects, where participating members of the fan club will each pitch in some money to buy or do something nice for the artist. 

This can often accumulate to quite a large sum of money - especially with some of the bigger celebrities! It’s a unique part of Korean fan culture and has also influenced many fandoms in other countries to do the same. 

K-pop fans, in particular, have been some of the most notable when it comes to gift-giving - TFW you want to give your bias the whole world 🥺️

In the past, gifts mainly only included cute food cart vendors, big public advertisements, PLENTY of designer items and the like 💸 While these are still very popular today, many celebrities have insisted that they don’t need to receive such lavish gifts, or any gifts at all. This led to fans being at a crossroads of wanting to respect the artist’s wishes but also wanting to show how much they appreciated them. 

As a result, many fan clubs switched to “fan philanthropy”, donating the money towards a charity, or other meaningful cause in the celebrity’s name. I assume fans also didn’t mind the bonus boost of the acts helping to give their idols a good image to the rest of the public 🤗 This, combined with the history of fierce competitiveness of different K-pop fandoms, has taken fan philanthropy to the next level 🔥

In 2007, fans of the group Shinhwa donated hundreds of kilograms worth of rice to charity, in honour of group member Shin Hye Sung’s first solo concert 🌾 This project is thought to have also set the trend for making rice donations - or “fan rice” - as one of the most popular forms of fan philanthropy.

Another HUGE donation was for Seo Taiji and the Boys’ 20th anniversary in 2012 (a very popular 90s boy group, for those who don’t know!), when fans donated around 40 million won (around $50,000 NZD) to the World Land Trust 😮 The money went towards a 5-hectare section in the Gaupi Assu Rainforest in Brazil, named the “Seotaiji Forest”. An inspired Seo Taiji later donated too, funding another forest right next to the first one, and named it “Seo Taiji Mania Forest” 😂

We can see how fans are still strongly influenced by past projects even now. A recent example is when last year, BTS RM’s fan club planted a fan-made forest near Han River Park for his birthday - and this was not the first one! 

Three hackberry trees and 200 stocks of spirea were planted at “RM Forest No. 2”, located near Han River Park 🌳 It has been said that his fans had also donated 20 million won (around $25,000 NZD) towards the project 🌱 

Aside from these examples mentioned, there have now been countless other projects to give back to those in need, donate blood and clean up areas of cities.  

Even if there isn’t a particular event, fans have also been known to take cues from their stars, and be influenced to take action in any campaigns and organisations that they promote.

We all know the power and potential that K-pop fandoms hold, so I’m glad that it’s going towards helping the greater good! 🌏

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