K Wave, short for the Korean Wave, has hit Sri Lanka bigger and crazier than you might think and it's time you knew by how much.
The increasing global popularity of the South Korean culture or the 'K-Wave' as it is famously known, has millions of people passionately embracing anything and everything to do with South Korea. Be it their music, K-pop or their TV shows, K-dramas and now even the K-cuisine, K-films, K-fashion and everything else in the name of K-culture or by the looks of it, the K-craze!
Talking to the ardent followers of this fast-growing K-Wave in Sri Lanka, one can see that it is a whole new world of endless activities. These fans pledge their loyalty to uplifting and promoting South Korean culture and find it rewarding to just be a part of the phenomenon.
"It all started when my friends told me to watch Boys Over Flowers and a few months after, I got into K-pop, listening to idol groups (In South Korea, a band is called an Idol Group) such as Super Junior, Shineeand BTS. But I started stanning (if a fan likes one group, it’s called ‘stanning’ them) EXO after watching a drama called Moon Lovers - Scarlett Heart Ryeo where the OST is sung by one of the members, Chanyeol. He also sings the OST along with another member, Baekhyun, for a K-drama called Goblin that was global hit.
I listen to Big Bang, Blank Pink, Girls Generation, Red Velvet and Wanna One as well but my ultimate stan is EXO. It’s because they all very diverse in their performances, the vocals, the dancing and the visuals always draws our attention, and again Chanyeol is my ultimate bias (if you like one member of the idol group, the member is called their bias).
A part of stunning and having a bias is reading fan-fiction. Chanyeol and Beakhyun are two members of EXO who are always shipped (when fans like and root for a relationship between two idols) together because of their friendship, chemistry and aegyo (a Korean term for cute display of affection through facial expressions and gestures) and the EXO fan base, called the EXO-Ls, have so many Chanbaek shippers (short for Chanyeol and Beakhyun) that they have written fanfiction. We can get good FFs (short for fan-fiction) in apps like Asian Fan Fic, Wattpad and Archive of Our Own.
A few months ago, I brought some books and started learning Hangul (the term for Korean language) with help of the internet and now I can read and understand, but not so great at talking. People always tell me that I have this ‘Korean Fever’ and that it will go away but it has not faltered so far and I don’t think it’s going to."
"It was about 8 years ago, when my friend asked me to watch Playful Kiss, and I have been a K-drama fan since then.Mid-last year I came across an article on celebrities with high IQ and RM (Rap Monster) from BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan) was on it and he was one of the youngest people on the list, being only 24 years old.
Around that time BTS also won the award for the Top Social Artist at Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs) and I officially became an A.R.M.Y (Adorable Representative MCs of Youth - Term given to a fan of BTS). V from BTS (Kim Taehyung) is my ultimate bias but I ship ChanBaek from EXO more than I ship TaeKook (Kim Taehyung x Jeon Jungkook). But still, I read both ChanBaek and TaeKook fan-fiction on Wattpad all the time!
They do many things to keep us interested in them, like the weekly variety show, BTS RUN on the VLIVE app. All Idols are on the VLIVE app, where they either do games or interact with millions of fans who come online to watch them. This is other than the concerts, fan-meetings, variety shows, and TV interviews they do!
Even, the K-Diamonds (Term given to Korean fans of Idol groups) always make sure to sub (add subtitles) the videos uploaded by Korean Idols on their YouTube channels and even explain what is going on so that we, I-Lovelies (Term given to international fans of Idol groups) can always keep up and feel included.
Just a month or so after I got into BTS, I have already bought BTS Merch (Merchandise), A BTS T-shirt, started voting for them in every award category they may be nominated in, streaming and sharing any content they may have uploaded on social media and talking about BTS to anyone who wants to listen.
We felt so proud when BTS performed at the American Music Awards (AMAs) last November and came on Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Kimmel and James Cordon show. It was like we were looking at our own kids. Stanning them has become a daily routine that we cannot live without now."
"I first got to know about K-pop after hearing Gangnam Style and my first thought was that there are too many members in Idol groups. However, I later listened to Overdose by EXO and became a huge fan of them and of course ship ChanBaek! At first, I used to be active on Google + with all the EXOL activities but later go into Twitter when I realised that Idols are more active on that.
About four months after joining EXOL, I joined a voting team that we can vote according to a roster for the award ceremonies. There were 600 e-mail addresses on a spreadsheet and you have to vote about 60 times a day, with 10 votes per IP address. This takes about 1 ½ hours a day. We don't feel like it's work since they too do so much for our entertainment. I even started learning to read, write and speak in Hangul. Liking K-Pop depends on how much you get into it and make it a good influence in your life, like a means to get away from the normal mundane routine.
We are so stressed with work and other commitments that sometimes it feels good to know that there is this cyber family that you belong to where everyone has the same objective and the same feeling. We become very passionate about an idol group maybe because they look hardworking and honest. It's nice to spend some time each day where you are part of an international fandom and your contribution is always appreciated and rewarded with fan-service!"
"Full House went on ITN with Sinhala subtitles, and it was a hit for me. And then a friend said I should watch Boys Over Flowers and I was addicted. I started liking SS501 after watching that drama since Kim Hyung Joon acted in it and I found out he is from that Idol group. ‘Kill Me Heal Me’ is also one of my favourite dramas.
I think we like K-Dramas so much because they are more positive and you feel good after watching those dramas. The stories are relevant to us and the situations look normal compared to other dramas we have seen. The Asian lifestyle is more familiar to us than the American ones so it feels more natural.
I also started learning Hangul on YouTube because I started to realise that the dialogs are not accurate when translated to English, so now I can understand about 70% of the conversations. We have a K-drama clique at office and sometimes we talk in Korean among ourselves!"
"A friend recommended that I watch a K-drama called Healer and from that day I was hooked. Ji Chang Wook was the male lead in that K-Drama and I have been stanning him since then. I started stanning Super Junior after seen one of its members, Choi Siwon in a drama called She Was Pretty. Now I’m a fulltime ELF (Term given to fans of Super Junior).
I like these dramas since they have a morale, like something we can learn out of it and it’s always pleasant to watch them perform and act. People in the Korean entertainment industry are very well mannered in the way they treat people and how they respect elders, so it feels like they are more decent than the rest of the world.
I even started learning to read, write and speak in Korean since I didn’t want to rely on subtitles to understand their dialog. Sometimes the real meaning of what is said is not translated properly and sometimes we have to wait till someone uploads the translations for us to watch it, so now I can somewhat manage to understand what is being said."
Please visit the official Facebook page – ‘Sri Lankan K-Pop Fans' – for upcoming fan-organized K-Pop activities in Colombo such as game shows and flash mobs!
By Melanie Senanayake