Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Tales from a Crazed K-Pop Fan

I am happy to announce that we will have a new column on Seoul Eats. In the past we have had other great columns like by Lindsay Huster. As many of you know, I run O'ngo Food Communications which is a culinary school and tourism company. The food is definitely an attraction for many to come to Korea but many come here for a variety of reasons such as K-pop, the dramas, the history, family and more. One of the things that personally fascinate me is k-pop and I was approached by someone with insight into the fan culture and she has agreed to write a column for Seoul Eats.

I would like to introduce you to Sexyfreeandkpop! No, that's not her real name.


P.S. If you would like to contribute to Seouleats, please contact me at seouleats@gmail.com

Chapter 1 Part 1

[caption id="attachment_10419" align="aligncenter" width="450"] picture from Seoulbeats www.seoulbeats.com[/caption]

Tales from a Crazed K-Pop Fan

Chapter 1 Part 1

I jerk awake to the soft buzz of a text message. 5:35 am. I’m late. I’ve never gotten the hang of getting a good night’s sleep before music shows, having only fallen asleep an hour or so before. No matter how many times I go, I can never been entirely confident in how the day will turn out, and today will prove just how unpredictable the live broadcasts can be. This time I’m bringing a friend with me for KBS’s Music Bank, specifically for our favorite group’s prerecording stage, she’s never been to a music show before, so in addition to my normal pre-broadcast nerves, I’m anxious about making sure she has a positive experience too.

I text a hasty reply to my friend who’s waiting at the subway stop as I grab my bag and quietly slip out of my pintsized one room boarding room, grabbing the bag I’d wisely packed the night before. How I manage to routinely sleep through the multiple alarms I set during the week for my 9am class, yet can be suddenly be at full attention by a mere five second duration of phone vibrating against desk, will never make sense to me.

Today I’m going to B.A.P’s prerecording, so in addition to my emergency music show makeup kit, schoolbooks for down time, and umbrella incase of rain, I have my new album “No Mercy”, and my prized B.A.P logo embossed whistle and slogan towel.

The air is thick with the scent of Thursday night’s revelries; the street cleaners have yet to clear away the bottles and club flyers littering my path to Sinchon Station. This area wakes up late and parties till the sun comes up. As I get my start today, there are a few stragglers about to finish theirs. This is my Korea.

There is already an oppressive weighty quality to the too warm air and it wraps around me like an invisible blanket, teasing the skin of my bare arms and legs. I make my way down the nearly deserted dawn streets of Sinchon, hefting my backpack with jerk and wondering just how many people I will be standing behind today.

We Transfer to Line 9 As I sit on the Friday morning train to Yeouido eyeing the peculiar mix of bleary-eyed schoolgirls and wholly unimpressed salarymen, I reflect on the absurdity of my fangirl existence. How did I get here, I mean in Korea? One year ago I was a Junior getting a fine arts major at a university in America, and one summer in Seoul had me suddenly, stupidly, deciding to concentrate on Korean studies (a program that doesn't technically exist at my university). What started as a single summer program has turned into a semester long period and an additional summer session. I'd like nothing more than to stay even another year, but sadly I must return to the states.

I appreciate the relative proximity of the KBS (Korea Broadcasting System) studio to my house. The moment the subway doors open to the National Assembly line, all traces of sleep disappear from the young girls’ faces, and suddenly they’re gone. They are literally running out of the station. Good luck to them, I say. The day I run anywhere for Oppa (an affectionate term meaning older brother in Korea and how most k-pop fans refer to the stars they admire) is the day I quit K-pop.

It’s 6 am and the sun is already uncomfortably strong as we walk the short block to the KBS headquarters. I’ve always liked Music Bank the best out of the weekend music shows, in part because of the relative proximity, but also because the general layout of KBS. There’s a large indoor lobby that’s sufficiently temperature controlled, and unlike MBC (Munhwa Broadcasting Channel), Mnet (Music Net) and SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System) the outdoor area where the fans queue is largely covered, contributing much appreciated protection from the elements. To my dismay however, B.A.P fans have begun their line in the one part of the courtyard that is in the direct sunlight. Lovely. I guess I’ll have a chance to work on my tan.

B.A.P fans, or “Babies” as we are officially called (not my top choice for a fandom name for a group that debut with a song called Warrior, but oh well), are not allowed to make a list of names before the fanstaff (volunteers that represent the band) arrives, meaning we have to physically form a line for the next eight hours. Not something I’m looking forward to, but my friend accepts it as part of the experience, even telling me she thinks it’s “exciting” and “fun.” Bless her soul. Maybe I’ve just gone to too many of these broadcasts, but sitting in the hot sun until the fanstaff arrive at 1:30 pm holds about as much appeal as watching a twilight marathon on repeat. It’s an eternity and under the sunlight, we’ll literally be sparkling like diamonds from sweat by the time the fanstaff arrive. After going to BAP events throughout the duration of the last promotion cycle, I have a pretty clear idea of how things work, and the one nice thing about the B.A.P line is that the girls around you are all very honest. (I’m not going to name names, but damn, some groups be crazy!) As a Baby, I’ve never had anyone cut me in line or move my belongings if I take a coffee break from waiting for an hour or so. The problem is, it’s six in the morning and there are no coffee shops open (In Korea most coffee shops won’t open till 10am or so.)

I sit on a bench attempting to block out the deafening cicadas while perusing my Korean language textbook until 8am. I manage to get some studying in before my stomach starts to growl. I decide to go in search of breakfast. Handel & Gretel, the coffee shop owned by Yesung of Super Junior’s parents that is conveniently located across the street from the main gates of the broadcasting building, is not quite open yet. So I settle for Holly’s Coffee, ordering myself my customary fangirl breakfast, the Bagel Set.

Besides the comfortable waiting areas, the next best part of Music Bank is KBS’s parking lot. For one thing, it’s entirely above ground, so the idols can be quite clearly seen as they come and go. For another, unless they’re extremely famous, they usually disembark from their sleek black vans outside the back gate, which is fair territory for fans to congregate, affording choice glimpses and often the best time to pass celebrities small presents or letters. I decide to take my breakfast over to the tree lined back gate, as I’m in no rush to return to my homework and the scorching sun.

I see a few girls I recognize from the B.A.P line, and I ask them if they’re expecting the group to show up soon. They tell me that last week the boys arrived at around 9:30, but it’s not exactly a predictable science. I glance at my watch, it’s quarter to nine, why not wait? I think to myself.

As I’m talking to a fellow fan, Jang Wooyoung of 2PM just casually walks down the sidewalk and I have to do a double take as he walks by. No matter how many times I see them on stage, idols still dazzle me a bit when they’re in 3D. I spend the morning sitting in the shade, sipping on my Iced Americano, watching idols come in as I anticipate B.A.P’s arrival. I’m not worried about my bag, because looking around, almost all the B.A.P fans are here anyway. These are my girls. There are definitely worse ways to spend a Friday morning, in my book.

End Part 1 of Chapter 1. Part 2 is coming soon.