Dear kfangurl: Can you talk about celebrity dating culture in Korea? [Interview with VOGUE India!]

This is another slightly different Dear kfangurl post, you guys.

After my last interview with VOGUE India about the male gaze vs. female gaze in kdramas (more details here!), Hasina Khatib (@thejoblessjourno on Instagram), who writes for VOGUE India, reached out to me again.

This time, she asked if I’d be willing to talk about celebrity dating culture, for an article that she was writing, which features Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin‘s wedding.

I said yes, and you can check out the article, where she quotes me selectively, here!

At the same time, similar to the last interview, there was a lot that I said, that didn’t make it into the final article, so with Hasina’s permission, I’m sharing the actual interview questions and answers here with you guys.

The only difference is that I’ve added images to make this more reader-friendly. I hope you all enjoy! ❤️

BTS for Dispatch White Day Special, 2019

What can you tell us about how idols are presented to the public within k-pop culture to fuel the fangirl/boy fantasy? 

I would say that kpop idols are generally marketed as being single and available, and this is definitely to fuel the fangirl/boy fantasy that there’s a sliver of a chance, that you could one day be the one to date that dream celebrity.

In kpop, it’s not unheard of to have “no dating” clauses in idols’ contracts.

Where does fan backlash (if any) stem from?

It depends on the fans and the fandom in question, as that varies across the board, but yes, fans in general do tend to have some possessiveness over Oppa.

I’ve definitely come across cases where fan loyalty towards a k-celeb is eroded because the person Oppa chose to date or marry was deemed a poor or perplexing choice.

How is this stance changing in modern times? 

2PM’s Chansung

I do think that things are evolving, in there are more idols who date openly now, compared to before.

Of course, the evolution is slow, and there are still many fans who still embrace the “single and available” fantasy. However, if you look at the kpop scene now compared to, say, 10 or 15 years ago, there are definitely more idols dating openly now than before.

Also, in the case of more mature groups, it’s not terribly shocking for marriage announcements to be made, and fans can and do give their blessings.

Case in point, 2PM’s Chansung recently announced that he will be getting married soon, and is also expecting a child with his fiancée, and fans were generally supportive.

Do k-drama actors (just dramas, not idol crossovers) have greater agency over their dating lives? 

Ji Sung and Lee Bo Young

Generally speaking, I would say that actors do have more freedom to date compared to kpop idols.

However, not all actors choose to date openly. Often, this is more because they value their privacy and prefer to date quietly, rather than because they feel they have no choice but to date in secret, in order to protect their careers.

For example, Ji Sung and Lee Bo Young dated quietly for years before getting married. They didn’t confirm their relationship to the public for a long time, most likely because they just wanted their privacy.

Since their marriage, neither of them has suffered any career setback, and both are well-respected and much sought-after actors.

On the other hand, Kim Woo Bin and Shin Min Ah have dated openly for years, and both are still considered A-listers, and neither has suffered a setback, career-wise, due to their relationship.

Also, A-lister Park Shin Hye recently announced her pregnancy and marriage to fellow actor Choi Tae Joon, and the couple suffered no backlash as well.

Park Shin Hye & Choi Tae Joon at their wedding

For a layperson, celebrity wedding note announcements might initially strike as appeasing or apologetic. Can you please tell us where this stems from and what is the kind of relationship that Korean celebrities share with their fans?  

Son Ye Jin‘s wedding announcement

The apologetic tone that you see in the announcement messages tend to be around “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier” or “I’m sorry that I was not the first to tell you” rather than “I’m sorry I’m getting married.”

This has to do with the culture in k-ent, where the vibe between celebrities and their fans is more familial, and where they tend to share personal aspects of their lives, to show their closeness with their fans.

It’s also a very common practice, for k-celebs to end any video greeting with their fans, with remarks about the weather, and earnestly request fans to keep warm and healthy, until they meet again.

This all adds to the familial vibe between k-celebrities and their fans.

In such a context, it makes sense why they would be apologetic, for not sharing the news earlier, or personally (in the case of those outed by news outlets).

The apology is in the vein of not having been completely honest with fans, despite their familial relationship, which is part of k-ent celebrity culture, rather than for actually dating or getting married.

Do Korean celebrities, in general, adhere to a greater level of transparency with their fans?

Junho in “I Live Alone”

If we are comparing k-ent with Hollywood, for example, then I would say that while k-celebs may choose to be more private about their dating lives compared to Hollywood celebs, who generally date, get married and divorced very publicly, they also tend to share more of their daily lives with fans than the average Hollywood celebrity, most of whom appear to be quite private about their daily lives.

The degree of sharing would vary from celebrity to celebrity, of course.

For example, it’s not uncommon for k-celebrities to participate in variety shows (like “I Live Alone”) where they show fans their homes, and what a day in their lives might look like.

Some celebrities give regular personal updates via their Instagram accounts, and do livestreams where they interact with fans, answer questions, and just show snippets of their lives.

In this respect, I would say that yes, k-celebs generally work to be transparent with their fans, even though they may choose to keep certain aspects of their lives private.

At the same time, celebrities need to be sensitive towards fans, and keep in mind what fans would like to know, and what fans would prefer not to know.

With 2PM being a senior group, that sort of “it could’ve been me” fantasy was prevalent when they started out, which means that OG fans likely still hold that fantasy dear, even though things have been evolving.

So, when Chansung recently shared a tidbit of personal information, that he’d spent 2 hours at the Seoul Living Design Fair (which is a must-do for new parents or newlyweds or couples preparing for marriage), reactions were mixed.

Some fans were supportive, while others felt it was TMI, ie, they would have preferred not to know.

IN CLOSING

How fun, to be invited to be interviewed by VOGUE India for a second time! As always, if you guys have other perspectives, thoughts or insights, please share them in the comments!

Thanks for sharing the experience with me, you guys. I honestly couldn’t do this without all of your support. ❤️

On a related tangent, if you didn’t already know, the blog first got mentioned (and linked!) in an article in VOGUE India last September, which you can check out here!

Last but not least, since the VOGUE India article which triggered this particular interview specifically focuses on Hyun Bin‘s marriage to Son Ye Jin, I thought it would be quite perfect, to end this post with a splash of wedding photographs from the happy couple.

Please enjoy.

Smooches. ❤️

~kfangurl

POST-SCRIPT:

1. If you feel that I missed anything, or if you have your own insights that you’d like to share with the rest of us, do tell us about it in the comments!

2. Do you have a question of your own? Drop me a comment here or on the Dear kfangurl page, or send me an email!

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Su San
Su San
5 months ago

You’re the best–congratulations! I was SO excited to see your talents show-cased.

And thanks so much for the Bin-Jin “prettiness” photos.

The interaction between Korean entertainers and their fans is so fascinating. My favorite among your comments is that K-entertainers are more open about their daily personal life–SO TRUE!–than their personal relationships.

The K-celebrity lifestyle seems to be strongly influenced by the work culture in Korea. Thinking of what we see in Kdramas about working–long hours, afterhours availability, constant team-building, work outings, prioritizing work over personal life, etc.–the K-celebrity culture seems to reflect those values. With that culture ingrained in Korean society, it easy to see why K-celebs cater to the demands of their fans, a.k.a., their bosses, and placing work above all else. However, I am glad to see there is a trend towards fans being more supportive of K-celebs having a personal life.

Keep up the GREAT work and let us know about future interviews!

MC
MC
5 months ago

Ah I enjoyed both your long form interview as well as the Vogue India article! How wonderful that you’re their go-to, for all things K-ent related! I echo everyone in that your recognition is well deserved!

I absolutely agree with all your points and learnt something new about the apologetic tone thing – I always thought they were saying sorry for breaking that “I could be your boyfriend” unspoken clause but I’m glad I’m wrong as that’s not right.

I sincerely hope that the netizens and fans like me can fully support their stand having actual personal lives. And related – also stop shipping bandmates with each other! Like band members like members of BTS may do innocuous things and people are like “get together! kiss!” and I’m like huh?? I mean. If they are secretly gay and love each other – by all means go ahead – but let’s not force it? Maybe it’s just me that thinks this but feels rather strange.

Oh lastly – one other out and out couple that I absolutely love is Jung Kyung Ho and Sooyoung and their careers certainly have not suffered at all. Love these out and out couples!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
5 months ago

Fangurl – Great news. Congrats and I feel really proud of you. You deserve this recognition.

merij1
merij1
5 months ago

Yay, on all levels:

  • You getting proper recognition
  • K-fans becoming less self-absorbed and weird about their k-loves (oh dear, did I just say that?)
  • Photos of Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin getting married — love those guys!
Last edited 5 months ago by merij1
beez
5 months ago
Reply to  merij1

– I’m with you on all counts (except Oppa Song Seung heon better not get married without running it by me first! And yes, I know it’s inappropriate for me to call him “oppa” but if they’re going to arrest me for that, then they may as well lock me up for life for all my other highly inappropriate thoughts about him!) 😋

merij1
merij1
5 months ago
Reply to  beez

lol. Don’t ever stop being you, @beez!

beez
5 months ago
Reply to  merij1

– funny thing is I’m not like this at all in real life. Or maybe I’m repressed. Either way – no one but y’all ever hear these types of thoughts. I’m very conservative. This persona emerged as more of a “girls night out” sort of thing when it used to be the only Kdrama fans that I knew of were middle-aged women. 😆

merij1
merij1
5 months ago
Reply to  beez

It’s still you. It’s an online version of you, which is the you that I know and love.

beez
5 months ago
Reply to  merij1

❤ back at cha, merij1

ngobee
ngobee
5 months ago

Congratulations! Lovely to see your hard work paying off.

Trent
5 months ago

We now turn to “popular k-drama critic”… I love it!! Love seeing you dropping your wisdom and experience in public journalism outlets like that!

beez
5 months ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent – I noticed that too. Funny thing is, I’ve never thought of KFG as being a “critic” but I guess she is!

Trent
5 months ago
Reply to  beez

I know, right?! But then I recall that a more high-falutin’ sense of critic is someone who engages or interrogates a work of art in a serious, searching, analytical fashion, and our KFG certainly does that…

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
5 months ago

Very nice to see such happenings again, kfangurl 😊

beez
5 months ago

@KFG – I’m so excited for you! Your hard work and talent are paying off! You always have a way of making us feel that you were sitting on the couch next to us while we were watching and then writing exactly what we were feeling too.

I’m so glad you’re being recognized.

beez
5 months ago
Reply to  beez

Oh. And Hyun Bin and Son Ue jin look very happy.

Shahz
Shahz
5 months ago
Reply to  beez

Couldn’t have said it better than this Beez!