K-pop and a Researcher’s Cultural Framework

 For this project, I want to draw my attention to writing ‘aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience’ (Ellis et al. 2012). In terms of who I am in relation to this research, I am fairly separate from the project. If I wasn’t taking Digital Asia as an elective, I wouldn’t have any interest in this project. However: I am a university student who knows the importance of expanding knowledge.  

My personal experiences within K-pop are limited – I know a few names of popular K-pop groups and that it’s extremely popular. I have also picked up a few things regarding how the idols are ‘trained’. But my project focuses on K-pop fans, and I don’t know anything about fan culture in South Korea.

However, my understanding of fanbases and Western ‘stan’ (stalker/fan) culture aren’t limited at all. Twitter is a popular tool for stan culture to flourish, and it has become its own language/meme – e.g. the skinny legend meme. From this, I know fandoms (with young women especially) can become quite powerful. 

Because of this, I wanted to expand what I already knew about fandoms and stan culture. Jenson (2002, p.9) states that the literature surrounding fan culture is ‘haunted by images of deviance’ and ‘the fan is constantly characterised as a potential fanatic’ and fandom culture is seen as ‘excessive, bordering on deranged, behaviour’. Jenson (2002, p.9) also states that the literature surrounding fandoms as a social and cultural phenomenon is sparse, and there’s very little research to explain fandom as a normal, everyday societal phenomenon.

In my early research, I’ve found that K-pop fans are often labelled in the ‘stan’ category. I spoke to a few people who explained to me that K-pop fans and fandoms have an intense dedication to their idols. Initially, I thought that this could be comparable to Beatlemania in the 1960s.



Ellis states that ‘autoethnographers also recognise how what we understand and refer to as “truth” changes as the genre of writing or representing experience changes’ (Ellis et al. 2012). As this project progresses, I want to embrace this statement and change all the current ‘truths’ I have about K-pop. I want to try and fill a gap (even if it is a tiny niche) and explore why K-pop fandoms are so loyal. Why are they given the label of being ‘obsessive’ or ‘crazy’ – and does this make them a target for outsiders?

I didn’t think this project could take a feminist angle, but I think its ingrained into me to find one. Reflexivity is an intrinsic element to autoethnography, but personal reflexivity ‘involves considering how our own values, life experiences and assumptions have influenced the research’ (Pitard, 2017). 

I have been raised in a world where women are always in danger. When I discovered the truth behind the MyDol app in my initial proposal, I was put in a position that felt all too familiar. These early epiphanies have structured my project – the two main pillars being how K-pop fandoms have become so powerful, and why female K-pop fans have become a target for negative labels and hackers through the MyDol app.



At this stage, I’m still interested in doing the project as a podcast. I’ve been deciding whether to split the content into three shorter podcasts, or just record one 10 minute podcast. I’m thinking the former might be easier to digest, but I will see how dense the research becomes. 




Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095> 

Jenson, J 2002, ‘The Adoring Audience : Fan Culture and Popular Media’ in LA Lewis (ed.) Fandom as Pathology: The Consequences of Characterisation, Routledge, London, p. 9

Pitard, J 2017, ‘A Journey to the Centre of Self: Positioning the Researcher in Autoethnography‘ Forum: Qualitative Research, vol. 18, no. 3, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/2764/4131> 

Header image: rawpixel  


2 thoughts on “K-pop and a Researcher’s Cultural Framework

  1. Eliza May says:

    I can relate to your interest in exploring the K-POP, I almost landed on this topic for my individual project as I briefly researched similar content in a media subject a couple of years ago; I focused on the Korean Wave, which covers all South Korean film and television genres, and found “pop on steroids” (K-POP) (I just thought of that! haha) one of the most interesting forms of entertainment in South Korea – check out my post on this topic in the BCM111 link on my blog if you’re keen to find out more, it may provide some interesting information towards your project.
    Your quest to take a feminist angle in this project is one which makes me want to continue following your progress as I have not encountered an analysis of K-POP through this lens. It’s great you recognise what your natural instincts are and how they sparked your type of approach to this research, however, deeper exploration into what specific personal experiences and remembered moments built your frame of mind would help readers understand why your personal connection to this project burns your will to keep on digging deeper into K-POP culture.


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