What are K-pop fans like? According to this survey they’re actually pretty cool.

You may remember a few months ago, we posted a survey from Master’s student Maur-Anne Griffonnet-Barge asking K-pop fans various questions about their preferences and beliefs and asked you to consider filling it out. We also said we’d be posting some of the results of the thesis once it was published. And here we are keeping our promise.

The responses were used in research for her thesis entitled “K-pop, pioneer of cultural entertainment and the development of its audience 2.0″. The project looks at how K-pop fans create their own cultural context around Hallyu and identify with the transnationality of K-pop products. It sounds really interesting but unfortunately it’s in French which I haven’t studied since years ago I was a school. In English, the only thing available is the abstract:

In the early 90 South-Korea began producing more and more movies, dramas and music: which became known as K-Pop. These media have invaded Asia and are now being exported all over the world. This Korean Wave is called Hallyu. Thanks to the internet and globalization, content that tend to dematerialize is becoming more accessible. The marketing of K-Pop agencies plays primarily on proximity, as it is often the case in Asia. It works quite well on young women but its transparency repels many potential consumers, especially Westerners. The creative concepts of K-Pop and the Global Entertainment meet a definite need for the international audience. It offers more groups than in US Pop. The manufactured multi-talented idols are impressive, the choreographies are accessible and music videos appear creative. These fans in search of exoticism, interested in K-Pop for its difference, fulfill their dreams through a passion for South Korea. They are interested in its traditional culture and plan on traveling or living in the Land of Morning Calm.

However, the main difference with its cousin J-Pop is with the connection of cultural values with its audience. These values, more hybrid and even transnational make it more accessible. The fans’ preference therefore comes unconsciously through the ownership that transnationality enables. Indeed, the community around K-Pop creates its own cultural context based on the consumption of Hallyu products. These codes and values often have no link, with the marketing itself, nor with the transasian traditional values: they are constructed by the media reception of the audience. Fans are active participants in building this hybrid exotic world, and it is actually the act of enculturation that becomes the key to entertainment. As such, K-Pop is a pioneer of the relatively new phenomenon known as Cultural Entertainment.

What we do have, however, are the results of the survey. In the end 1774 people took part including a number of BH readers and Maur-Anne kindly created us this rather eye-catching infographic breaking down all the results:

WebThe first thing that strikes me about these results is that they don’t seem particularly representative of K-pop fans as a whole. Although it’s not surprising that the respondents were overwhelmingly female and the breakdown of ethnicity and age is roughly what I expected although I’m a little surprised there’s a white majority – even if it’s a very slim one. But the thing that stands out in terms of demographics is how long everyone has been listening to K-pop. The fact the majority of survey takers have been listening for over 4 years I think says more about the kind of people who read the specialist blogs like BH and My Korean Husband that many of you were referred from.

If you’re here, you’re probably not a casual fan and presumably you like to dissect things a little more thoroughly than someone who just browses larger news sites like allkpop or Koreaboo. (Let’s be honest even to find our site would take some searching.) There’s definitely some selection bias going on here and I would imagine the bulk of K-pop fans aren’t quite as interested in Korean current events or food. Nonetheless, it’s cool to see so many people in this little internet sphere are interested in ant-racism and gender equality. Although I’m not actually particularly surprised given the articles that have been most popular for us in the past.

Even if it’s not representative of everyone, what this highlights – and what I imagine a large part of Maur-Anne’s thesis was about – is that the dominant culture and values of the international fandom are separate from the values of the Korean entertainment industry and K-pop itself. By nature, it’s international and pluralistic – full of people from different countries and cultures – but more than that it’s full of people with interests in other cultures outside of their own. A lot of academic writing on K-pop argues that even having an Asian person on an international stage as the star is quite subversive in white-dominated global culture. Many would find that a little overblown but it does point to an open-minded and accepting nature prevalent among fans of Korean entertainment.

More than anyone I hate self-congratulatory circle-jerks about how great international K-pop fans are (because, you know, a lot of the time they’re not) but there is definitely progressive and internationalist culture which dominates. It’s diverse and it’s mostly accepting of everyone (except when you get between fangirls and their oppas). In fact, that’s probably the best thing about the K-pop fandom.

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  • Lisa

    Love this infographic! Although I am not particularly surprised about anything, I do like how it gives a overview of the international fandom. I do agree that it’s not representative but the breakdowns on each region is quite nice and shows the subtle but important differences in each region. If I was someone at any of the Korean entertainment companies, this info would be very very useful! (Although, I am sure they have a significant amount of info and data on the international audience already!)
    I do have one question about “Why do they like kpop? section”, What does the significance testing in each region compared to? Eg. Fans in N.America enjoy singularity significantly less than other regions or other categories (Non US music, many bands, solo artists?)

    • Maur-Anne Griffonnet-Barge

      Sorry for the late answer! The significance of each criterion is in comparison with the other regions.

  • Haekyung Um

    I find both Maur-Anne’s survey and Lizzie’s comments on the results extremely interesting! It would also be interesting to hear about what UK K-pop fans think about the results on Europe?

    • Maur-Anne Griffonnet-Barge

      Thank you very much! It would be interesting indeed.

  • christinanolanXD

    Against racism?? Korea??

    • Maur-Anne Griffonnet-Barge

      This survey did not aim to study the Korean culture, but the global K-Pop fandom culture. We are not talking about Koreans but about international K-Pop fans, who appear to share anti-racism as their number 1 value.