K-Pop and K-Dramas: Fan Sign Etiquette

Image of Park Jimin at a fan sign event. Copyright goes to the tireless Jimin fancam websites and the countless edits made by ARMYs. In other words, I do not own this picture.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I should really prelude this by saying that I have never been to a fan sign. For the most part, fan signs take place in South Korea and most of my love of K-pop happened during quarantine. So, other than online fan signs, there really wasn’t much going on. I also want to state here that as the popularity of K-pop groups grow, fan signs are dying out. And it’s for the exact same reason that we don’t have any events like this in the US. Protection. In places like fan signs it becomes much more difficult to get into them as the groups gain a bigger audience. Not only that, situations like this create a face-to-face experience between the idols and fans which makes the idols more likely to be attacked. This is the main reason why BTS no longer has fan signs and probably never will again. I apologize if that makes you sad, trust me, I’m a little disappointed too. But I definitely understand and support this decision. Because while most of the fans of a specific group might be incredibly kind, there will always be fans out there who don’t consider the safety of their idols. And this is why we need to talk about fan sign etiquette. Because many of these groups will only post behavioral rules such as “you are not allowed to ask personal information” and not much else. And there should be more rules attached here. To many this may seem like common sense, but I think we need to make sure we talk about these.

No Roleplaying:

I’m hoping that most of you looked at that line I just wrote above and thought it sounded absolutely crazy. This sounded crazy to me at first too. I thought there was no way that there are fans out there who ask their idols to role play during a fan sign. First of all, that’s really uncomfortable and second of all, I thought the entire purpose was to meet your idol in real life. Making them act like something they aren’t kind of defeats the purpose of that. But I think the biggest issue here is how much this breaks barriers with the idol and veers off into strange territory. The first example I’ve seen of this was a fan posting a video of themselves interacting with San in an online fan meet up with ATEEZ. In this video she asks San to pretend to be her son and to pretend like Hongjoong is his father. That’s really really creepy. San didn’t dispute this but didn’t exactly go along either. San is the type of person who will feel bad saying no to a fan, and I hope he eventually is comfortable with the knowledge that it’s ok to say that you’re uncomfortable to anyone over anything. It was clear that San was uncomfortable throughout this video and eventually Hongjoong, who was sitting next to San, realized that San was so uncomfortable and peeked his head in to see what was going on. Of course, this effectively ended the current train of conversation. Watching that video made me physically sick. Please note that idols are humans too, they are not your puppets. You can’t just make them do whatever you want them to. Treat them with a little respect guys. Also, serious props to Hongjoong for looking out for his members like that.

No Skipping:

We’ve talked about this on the blog a little bit before, especially in my sister’s post about solo stans. There is NEVER a good reason to skip an idol during a fan sign. It does not matter if your bias is just after the next person and there’s no one your bias is talking to. You still should not skip any member for any reason. I feel a little bit like this is going to fall on deaf ears, because if you even considered skipping a member of a group in a fan sign you are probably a solo stan. Everyone should learn to love and respect each member of a group they support. But this happens far too much. We all know of the infamous fan who asked Taehyung in an old BTS fan sign if she could skip him. More recently we’ve heard about this happening a lot to members of groups that aren’t from South Korea originally. For example, the amount of times Yiren has been skipped in Everglow fan signs because she’s Chinese is atrocious. Long story short, if you can’t respect all the members of a group than there’s no way you can respect that group itself. It’s also ridiculous to think that you’ll have more time with your bias if you skip another member. You won’t. Every person gets the same amount of time with every member, it doesn’t matter what kind of time you think you’re “saving”. You are still going to be escorted away after your minute is over.

No Shipping Questions:

I know that shipping is a huge thing in the K-pop world. I personally think that shipping real people together is kind of strange, but I know there are a lot of people who like to do it. This kind of goes back to what I said about making idols uncomfortable. They are there to have a nice genuine conversation with you; not for you to try and fish information out of them to somehow confirm your favorite ship. I know this happens a lot at fan signs and I know that there are a lot of people out there who are convinced that their favorite ship is real. The reality of the situation is, you don’t know for sure. You don’t actually know them. And trying to force them to view things your way could actually make a real friendship awkward because of the narrative you’re trying to force on them. Don’t presume to know what their personal lives are.

No Breaking Physical Boundaries:

Most fan signs do have rules for things like this, but this is still important to mention. I know a lot of people going to fan signs want a hug from their favorite idol. Most of the time, they are not allowed to give you a hug. That is a rule set for their personal safety. Also, please do not try to hold hands with idols who do not offer you their hands first. And especially please do not try to grab the hands of idols who’s hands are not visibly towards you on the table. There are several idols out there with severe social anxiety where unwanted touching could trigger their anxiety. Be mindful of that. I know we’re at a point where people expect to hold hands with their idols at a fan sign because it’s such a common thing, and I don’t think that this should be applicable to every idol. For example, Namjoon has always been notorious for holding hands with fans at fan signs. In earlier signs, Yoongi didn’t do it as much due to his social anxiety. That doesn’t make Yoongi rude in any way, it just means that he’s trying to keep the fan sign as happy and comfortable for himself as it is for you. And literally anyone should have the human decency of being able to decide what their barriers are.

Honestly, all this is to say that when attending a fan sign be kind and courteous to the idols too. They are real people who also completely deserve human decency. Just be genuine, know your boundaries, and don’t be afraid to tell them how much they mean to you. They are not there to be your puppets, they are there to have a friendly and warm conversation with you. Remember to be respectful of them as people. As I said, many fan signs are dying out because of the lack of protection for idols at them. ATEEZ, for example, just recently walked through an airport with no security and protection and were immediately surrounded in a pretty dangerous way. If idols can’t be protected during everyday things like that, it’s difficult to imagine how much protection they can sustainably have at an ever-growing fan sign event. Do I eventually want to go to a fan sign one day? Of course! But I would be much happier knowing that the members of my favorite idol groups are safe. One of the only ways we can try to keep fan signs going is if we all learn how to be respectful at them so that hopefully they can be safer places for idols to attend. If any of the categories that I mentioned above included something you were considering doing at a fan sign, please seriously reconsider. For the sake of the idol and also for the sake of fan signs as a whole. Just treat idols like regular human beings!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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