The Dark Side of the K-Pop Phenomenon: When Fans Turn Obsessive

Even though we might be slightly embarrassed to admit it, we’ve all been fans of a singer or a band once in our lives; and we’re all probably no strangers to feeling that indescribable excitement when we see them in concert or even through a screen.

But, just how far would you go to get close to your idols?

While most of us would usually adore our idols from a distance, this isn’t the same for fans of Korean pop singers and groups. Since the rise of the Hallyu wave, there has been a growing number of Korean pop fans who’ve taken things to the next level in the name of love by using creepily obsessive methods to gain closer access to their oppas.

Who are they?

Termed by the K-pop fan community as ‘Sasaeng Fans’, Sasaeng (사생) in Korean means private life and a Sasaeng Fan (사생팬) is typically used to refer to obsessive fans who stalk or engage in creepy, criminal-like behaviour that is an invasion of privacy.

What do they do?

Jungkook blocking a call from a Sasaeng during his VLive. (Image source: VLive)

Unlike the common fan behaviours, Sasaengs are known to have developed their own methods of obtaining personal information about their idols which includes confidential details such as their flight details, mobile numbers, daily schedules, home address, family details, and credit card account numbers.

It has often been speculated that Sasaengs may have gotten their details either through the use of a hacking programme or from insiders (usually staff of the company) who have access to all of the idols’ confidential data.

Apart from sharing the information amongst themselves, Sasaengs are also known for granting other fans access to these details by selling them on social media platforms like KakaoTalk and Twitter.

A Sasaeng’s bilingual tweet selling flight information. (Image credit: Soompi)

In an undercover report conducted by Korea’s CBS NoCut News, the reporters explained how easy it was to find Sasaeng fans who were putting these information up for sale. What was probably the most worrying thing about this is the fact that the details were available at an affordable price of less than SGD$20.

Why do fans become Sasaengs?

Sasaengs who tracked down TWICE’s Tzuyu when she was on vacation with her family in Cambodia. (Image credit: allkpop forum)

Most fans who become Sasaengs are motivated by the desire to stand out from the crowd and gain personal recognition from their idols. It’s that idea of wanting to know more and get closer to the idol, and thinking that they will start to take notice of you at future events. While it may seem like an irrational reason to behave like this, it is, however, a norm within every k-idol fandom.

Not Just Korean Sasaengs

Though it can be assumed that Sasaeng-like behaviour is probably only seen in Korea itself, the ongoing Hallyu wave has given way to an increase in foreign Sasaengs as well.

German Sasaeng Josh and TWICE’s Nayeon. (Image credit: YoshTG Twitter and Naver x Dispatch)

A recent, and perhaps still on-going case which involves popular female girl group TWICE’s Nayeon and German Sasaeng Josh has made news headlines after the 25-year-old followed the group and boarded the same flight from Japan that was bound for Seoul.

The now-deleted instastory believed to be uploaded by Nayeon. (Image credit: TWICE’s official Instagram account)

The incident came to light when fans of TWICE came across a still photo of an airplane interior with the caption: “Please go home. Please stop. I’m begging you.”, on the group’s official Instagram account. Though it was hastily taken down shortly after, the image had already gone viral.

Although there hadn’t been any immediate information available, fans had already speculated that the German was the reason that the post went up. The speculations were further confirmed after an official statement was issued by the group’s company, JYP Entertainment. In it, they addressed the close-call Nayeon had with Josh, which was thwarted by the group’s security team. On top of stating the legal actions to be pursued, the company also revealed that Nayeon will be placed under police protection for the time being.

Despite the official word from the company, Josh has been quite vocal in expressing his thoughts about the incident. In a series of angry tweets, he detailed his side of the story, citing a physical assault he had allegedly received from TWICE’s managers, as well as his personal thoughts on how JYP Entertainment is conspiring against him.

Screenshot of a tweet Josh sent out after news broke of his attempt to meet Nayeon. (Image credit: YoshTG Twitter)
Josh’s POV of what happened. (Image credit: YoshTG Twitter)
Josh’s claim of his courteous behaviour on the plane. (Image credit: YoshTG Twitter)

He even addressed the legitimacy of the now-deleted InstaStory post, which he strongly believes was not written by any member of TWICE (including Nayeon) but by one of the staff members.

Josh addressing the now-deleted instastory that was posted. (Image credit: YoshTG Twitter)

Even before his near encounter with Nayeon, Josh had already been rather candid with his stalker-like activities on Twitter. From surveying locations that Nayeon frequented to chance-meeting other TWICE members, the German
25-year-old had documented them all on his Twitter as his way of showcasing just how committed he is to winning Nayeon’s heart.

Josh’s tweet about staking out at the JYP Entertainment Building for Nayeon. (Image credit: YoshTG Twitter)
Josh and his ‘chance meeting’ with two other members from TWICE. (Image credit: YoshTG Twitter)
Josh expressing his annoyance with not being able to track down TWICE’s new residence. (Image credit: YoshTG Twitter)

More close encounters of the obsessive kind

If you think Nayeon’s Sasaeng encounter was scary, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Here are a few creepy Saseng-Idol encounters that continue to reign as the most extreme cases in Korean pop fandom history:

Attempted Kidnap

EXO and the common idol van. (Image credit: SM Entertainment and Koreaboo)

During EXO’s early years, the boys had a seriously close call with Sasaeng fans who had attempted to kidnap the boys after they were done for the day with the use of an identical company van. If not for their quick-witted manager, who noticed the difference between their vans, the boys would have boarded the wrong van that was rented out by their Sasaeng fans!

Street Chase in Sweden

A fan who caught a Sasaeng chasing BTS down the street in Sweden. (Image credit: chuwnu Twitter)

Despite being in Sweden filming for their travel reality show Bon Voyage, a few members of BTS were subjected to getting chased through the streets of Sweden by Sasaeng fans. It turned out that a group of Sasaeng fans had already known where the boys were headed to and were watching and waiting for their opportunity to get to the boys alone.

Bathroom Invasion

EXO surprised in the bathroom by their female Sasaeng fans. (Image credit: Abbey on a Korean forum)

In another incident with EXO, the boys experienced some serious violation of personal privacy when a few female Sasaeng fans entered the bathroom the boys were using. In an attempt to avoid detection or suspicions, the girls had shaved their heads and dressed up like boys! Thankfully, they were caught before any damage was done, though now the boys have made it a habit to take turns standing guard to prevent a similar event from occurring.

Airport Grab

Jungkook getting touched and grabbed after arriving at the airport in Indonesia. (Image source: YouTube)

One of the downsides to being a popular idol group is probably having to face large turnouts at airports. When BTS arrived in Indonesia for a performance, the boys were definitely not ready for the number of Sasaeng fans who tried to grab on to the members as they passed through. They not only rushed at the boys but also attempted to grab ahold of their belongings especially targeting the youngest member, Jungkook, who had a hard time getting away.

Menstrual Note

A screenshot of the Sasaeng’s post where she showed everyone the pad she used for the note she wrote (seen on the left). (Image credit: Koreaboo)

Perhaps the one that takes the cake is none other than the note 2PM’s Taecyeon received from a Sasaeng fan. In probably the most extreme Sasaeng acts to have ever occurred, the boy group member was the unfortunate recipient of a creepy note which said, “You can’t live without me.” What made things truly horrific was that the note had allegedly been written in blood from the Sasaeng’s menstrual pad! Yikes!

What are the Korean entertainment companies doing to curb
Sasaeng activities?

In an effort to reduce the number of Sasaeng incidents, big companies such as SM Entertainment have resulted to pursuing legal action against anyone who invades their artists’ privacy or engage in criminal activities against the artists.

For BigHit Entertainment, the company that manages BTS, their solution was to release a list of blacklisted Sasaengs which includes the Sasaeng’s name and violations. Being on this list basically prevents the blacklister from
attending concerts, fan meetings, or any public event that involves the group.

In addition to this list, BigHit Entertainment had also hired some extra muscle for the group to keep them safe as they wrestle through the airport.

A BTS member walks alongside his bodyguard before pushing aside a fan who got too close. (Image source: YouTube)

Though some fans have expressed concern over the rough handling that the bodyguards seem to display when it comes to clearing the path for the idols, it
certainly comes in handy when deterring Sasaengs from getting too close for comfort.