K-Pop: Idols Are Allowed to Have Boundaries

Promotional image of Kim Taehyung, Kim Seokjin, Jeon Jungkook, Park Jimin, Min Yoongi, Jung Hoseok, and Kim Namjoon for the 2021 FESTA. Copyright goes to BTS and Hybe Entertainment.

Hey! Hallie here!

There are several things to celebrate in the K-Pop world right now. Speaking for ARMY, we recently got some incredibly attractive concept photos for “Butter”, several weeks in a row on the Billboard Top 100, and we still have the promise of more content coming out this month. But now more than ever it’s important to recognize that BTS, and all K-pop idols, are humans with boundaries. It feels like every time I go on social media I see more and more K-pop fans feeling as though they’re entitled to an uncomfortable closeness with idols who they don’t even know. And with infuriatingly frequent incidents like that of the group of fans showing up to Justin Bieber’s house last week, I can’t help but feel that large fan groups need to keep their relationships with the people they follow in check. So let’s go over some of the incidents I’ve seen being talked about in the community and why some fan reactions have been problematic. As usual, my focus will be on BTS because that is my main fandom.

J-Hope’s Bodyguard:

Past footage of the members of BTS is bound to come back up on TikTok. Most recently, footage of J-Hope walking with his bodyguard in an airport caused a lot of debate. In the video, a woman can be seen quickly approaching J-Hope. In a very swift move, his bodyguard shoves her out of the way and, in the process, causes her to fall into a trashcan. A lot of people criticized the bodyguard for the perceived violence of this action. Some even suggested that J-Hope should be held accountable. This reaction to the footage is an issue. The bodyguard’s purpose is to keep everyone away from J-Hope. Not only is his public status reason for him to be attacked, but it is incredibly common for fans to approach and harass idols while they’re busy or seeking privacy. The bodyguard was simply doing his job. I doubt he intended to push the woman into a trash can, but it wasn’t appropriate to approach J-Hope at that time. There’s been a serious debate on whether or not the woman was even intending to interact with J-Hope, and I do admit that the video leaves that unclear. The woman comes out of nowhere and it isn’t clear which direction she’s heading. But even if her intention wasn’t to bother J-Hope, it’s somewhat frightening to me how many people are angry at the bodyguard for pushing someone who, accident or not, was approaching J-Hope at a rapid pace. And while it might have been nice if he had checked whether or not she was ok afterwards, he is probably taught to keep moving for the safety of the idol he’s protecting. All in all, it makes sense to feel bad for the woman who ended up on the floor. But the reality of the situation is that so many fans approach J-Hope with no recognition of his privacy or boundaries, that it’s necessary for the bodyguard to react this way. Instead of criticizing the bodyguard, maybe we should criticize the type of fan he was obviously expecting when he pushed that woman.

Important Business:

Here’s another J-Hope example! (Can you tell I’m a J-Hope bias?) In any case, most ARMYs are aware of “Important Business”. This is the phrase J-Hope says to anyone who approaches himself or the other members when the group is out, enjoying themselves. Often he has to use it most when the group is traveling out of country. Most fans find his use of this phrase funny. And in a way, it is! He has an adorable accent and often times he himself laughs after he uses it. He knows that he isn’t actually in the middle of important business and his trick using some of the English he knows is amusing. But I would argue that his use of the phrase isn’t “savage” even though a lot of fans describe it this way. It’s actually extremely polite. The people who approach BTS while they’re attempting to enjoy themselves are absolutely in the wrong. Unless an idol indicates to you that it’s alright to approach them, there is no excuse for interrupting an idol out of nowhere when they are clearly on their time off. They hardly ever get time to themselves. They spend most of their time creating new content for their fans or doing performances for their fans. And while BTS is very vocal about their love for the fans, it doesn’t mean the fans are entitled to ALL of their time. They should be allowed to live their lives in the privacy every human has a right to. Interrupting their privacy without consent denies them this opportunity. And while it would make complete sense for Hobi to be more firm when dealing with fans who don’t respect this, he makes up a polite excuse. So yes, I will laugh at Hobi every time he says “Important Business”. But I don’t think it in any way makes him seem impolite.

The Shipping:

Shipping has become a huge topic of debate recently. And I hate to say it, especially because shipping is really popular in fandoms like this. But shipping too often gets to the point where it breaches idol boundaries. There are a few levels of problematic with this one, though. First there is the obviously problematic fans. These are the fans who try to force a member to talk about their “potential relationship” with another member on a V-Live or in a fan interaction. These fans are also the type of fans to harass a company for not putting the two members they ship together in interviews or music videos. These are the easiest to critique. This behavior is obviously possessive and very clearly makes idols uncomfortable. It also is most often the type of behavior that can ruin friendships within K-pop groups. However, this isn’t the only problematic behavior. Searching for hand touches or “intimate contact” that might “prove” your ship is real can also be extremely toxic behavior. Even if you aren’t directly confronting the members with your theories. This is because the behavior shows a disconnect from reality. Even though you don’t know the members and have no insight into their real lives or relationships, you are making assumptions about them and their actions to prove that the fantasy you made up is accurate. Once again, you don’t personally know any of the members. You don’t have a right to make assumptions about them. And the more you make up fantasies about them that you actually believe, the further you get from acknowledging that idols are human beings whose lives aren’t purely for your entertainment.

These are just some of the topics I’ve seen floating around recently. There are too many examples of fans ignoring idols’ boundaries for me to be able to fit them all in one post. To be clear, this post wasn’t made to put anyone down. I simply want it to give some insights into recent issues that you maybe haven’t considered. It’s always good to check in with your behavior when you’re in a fandom that surrounds real individuals. When you’re obsessing over something like Marvel with fictional characters, it does no harm to anyone to theorize about their personal lives or ship characters together. But K-pop groups aren’t characters. They’re real people. And we should be cautious of that in every situation.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

One thought on “K-Pop: Idols Are Allowed to Have Boundaries

  1. Hi fellow army!! I’m so excited for Permission to dance πŸ˜‰ Anyway about this post, yeah I get you respecting boundaries is a huge problem in kpop πŸ˜”

    Liked by 1 person

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