If you’re a K-Pop fan living outside of Korea, you know the struggle. Luckily, you’re not alone in it. Most international fans can relate to these stipulations that come with the global fan experience.
1. You can’t understand anything they’re saying.
Kamsa-WHAT? If you want to watch that new episode of that variety show you’ve been waiting for, don’t get your hopes up too much. The subtitles probably won’t be up for another 24 hours and, if you’re unlucky, those subtitles might not happen at all. This is especially true for international fans who don’t speak English, unfortunately. While you wait for subs, you watch raw episode anyway, hoping to magically absorb the Korean language.
2. You are living in a different timezone.
If you want to see that live stream that’s on air at 3 AM, there’s not much stopping you…besides sleep. If you’re willing to be a sleep-deprived zombie then, yes, you can see your idols online. Just make sure you don’t giggle or laugh too loud. You might wake someone up!
3. You are going broke.
Want that new album? That light stick? That super-expensive, official merchandise? If you aren’t careful, supporting your favourite group might cost you everything you have in your wallet.
4. BLACKPINK is never in your area.
Entertainment agencies try their best to bring idols around the world, but they can’t stop in every single area. In fact, “world tour” doesn’t even mean “world tour”. If you’re not in Asia, the United States, or Europe, your bias might never set foot in your country. All you can do is cross your fingers…and binge on concert DVDs.
5. No fan meets. No fan signings.
If you’re lucky, your favourite group will perform in your area. Unfortunately, that concert will most-likely not come with a fan meet or a fan sign, especially for ultra-popular idol groups. Only Korea and Asian other countries usually get these perks.
6. Want to enter this contest? You can’t.
“Enter for a chance to meet insert favorite group here and a day to hang out with them”. “Win this autographed t-shirt”. If you ever seen this playing on a Korean commercial or TV show, chances are you have to be in Korea to enter these contests.
7. Shipping fees are the worst.
Korean clothes? Cosmetics? Merchandise? These items might seem affordable, until you add the shipping costs. $30 to ship a $10 item? Get ready to remove that item from your cart.
8. Waiting for your items to arrive.
Buying your K-Pop merch is only half the struggle. Once you find what you’re looking for online and pay the outrageous shipping fees, you still have to wait for your items to come in the mail. Korean fans get to walk into a store, buy their merch, and go home. How unfair!
9. Your item is out of stock.
In more recent years, international retailers have been getting more and more K-Pop items in stock, due to an increase in demand. Unfortunately, that demand can be a little too high sometimes. Nothing is more frustrating than going to the mall and finding out that someone has just bought the last copy of the new album you wanted.
10. When you finally travel to Korea, your favourite group is out of the country.
One of the biggest and most obvious things international K-Pop fans hate is the fact that they’re not in Korea. There’s no better way to get in touch with K-Pop than being in its birthplace, experiencing it first hand. International fans can’t taste the genuine Korean foods idols eat, or walk the ground they’ve walked on. One day, you know that you’ll buy that plane ticket to Korea, but until then, you have to experience Korea from afar… You’d just better hope that your favorite idols aren’t out of the country on one of their many international schedules!
11. Buying K-Pop concert tickets is like going to war.
If the BTS’s world tour has proved anything, it’s that each ticket sale day is a fight to the death for international fans. Global K-Pop concerts are rare, and there’s no telling when (or if) your favorite group will return to your area. You have to compete with your entire country (and neighbouring countries) for a ticket. As if that wasn’t enough, you also have to battle the scalpers who buy up tickets then resell them at astronomical prices.
12. You can’t sing along to your favourite songs.
It’s totally frustrating to be in love with a song you can’t sing along to. You go from belting out the English lines to mumbling the rest, hoping that someone might mistake your gibberish for Korean.
13. You can’t visit exclusive buildings.
Since you aren’t in Korea, you can’t visit any K-Pop entertainment agencies’ buildings and cafes, a.k.a your idols’ second homes. Sure, you can order merch and (maybe) see your idols’ overseas concerts, but you can only visit these building in Korea.
14. “The uploader has not made this video available in your country.”
This message makes you want to hurl your computer through the nearest window then break down in tears. Quick! There’s a live stream of the concert your idol is performing at. You click the link, then see this error message on your screen. If you can’t find a link elsewhere, all you can do is pray that someone will upload high-quality fan cams.
15. Your friends and family are muggles.
One of the most difficult struggles for international fans is being the only K-Pop fan they know (in person). Although K-Pop is gaining global popularity at the speed of sound, many fans still don’t have anyone to gush about their bias with. Their family and friends just don’t get it (yet).