About a decade ago, K-pop addiction among youngsters raised eyebrows, if not verbal disapproval. With Vietnamese K-pop fans going gaga over everything related to K-pop — from buying expensive merchandise to attending concerts abroad — many think it’s a total waste of money and energy that could have otherwise been spent on their studies.
But over the years, the stigma surrounding K-pop fixation has eased up. Supporting “idols” has now become very normal, with almost everyone avidly supporting at least one K-pop group. As a matter of fact, a survey by Q&Me found that 51% of the population loves K-pop, from BTS and BigBang to Blackpink music.
For Gen Z fans, topics about K-pop actually help break the ice during awkward meetups or build connections with their peers. Talking about which group they’re supporting or how many albums and photocards they’ve bought instantly hypes up the conversation.
To outsiders, it might seem weird to invest so much time, effort, and money in people who do not exactly know who they are. But to most of the K-pop fans in Vietnam, having “idols” to look up to — and yes, spend money on — is what inspires them to aspire for bigger things and work harder to achieve their dreams.
Love at first sight
Linh H. is now 21, but she has known about K-Pop since Grade 4, when she was just nine. “I accidentally watched Girls' Generation’s music videos — Gee and Kissing You on TV. What attracted me at first was their outstanding visuals and catchy tune. That was the origin story for my passion for K-Pop,” she narrated.
Also a fan of SNSD, or so-called SONE, Dieu An fell in love with the group when she first saw their stage performances. Slowly, she explored more about their discography and personalities. “Through their stories, I feel like many idols are ambitious people. They work hard for their dreams and leave positive impacts on society. I also learn a lot of lessons from them, and they motivate me to improve myself.”
Believe it or not, being a K-Pop fan can help one acquire new skills. In Vietnam, many fan pages or personal blogs have gained thousands of followers. Their content is diverse, from music to photos and videos, but they’re all meant to show support. Starting a fan page can help you learn about digital media or content creation.
Many K-Pop fans also learned how to use Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Premier to edit photos and videos for their idols.
K-Pop fans also host many events to celebrate their idols’ birthdays or debut anniversaries. Putting up a carefully-planned event involves countless tasks that help foster management skills. A typical K-Pop event often needs decorations, gifts, and some mini-games for participants. To Kim Phuong, another hardcore K-pop fan, loving K-Pop brought fun and entertainment to her life along with valuable learning experiences.
Worth every penny
A K-Pop fan spends money on streaming music, buying albums, collecting photocards, going to concerts, or all of the above. The price of an album is around VND350,000 - 450,000. Since there are yet to be concerts in Vietnam, fans who want to be physically present at shows must travel to nearby countries such as Thailand and Singapore. A trip like this costs around VND 10 to 20 million.
Photocard collectors can also pay up to millions for a photocard depending on how trendy the member is and how rare the photocard is. In addition, companies usually release merchandise on holidays and concerts, inciting more demand, thus increasing the prices steeply.
For those who are willing and have the money to spend, the sky is the limit. And they regret nothing.
Most Gen Zs use their own money for their purchases. It could be from the pocket money they receive from their parents or the salary from their part-time or full-time jobs. In the case of Linh H., although she has followed her idols since elementary school, it was in high school that she bought her very first album.
To these youngsters, buying K-Pop products is a way to enjoy their lives to the fullest. It’s the same when you buy a dress you like or pay for an out-of-town trip. To Kim Phuong, instead of thinking of it as a mere product, it is more of buying an experience or memory she could relive for the rest of her life. Phuong said, “I think I am buying for my hobby, to make me feel happy. Life is about balancing material happiness and a healthy mental state. If you set a reasonable budget for it and are happy about it, I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
“K-Pop is part of my life. I do not want to look back one day and then regret it because I haven't done something worthwhile in my youth,” Linh added.