These fans spend hours organising birthday parties and designing their own concert merchandise for the South Korean boy band.
It has all the makings of a birthday party.
There are helium balloons, cakes, and posters of Kpop idols plastered on the premises, usually held at Korean celebrity-owned café, +82, or Korean coffee chains like Coffeesmith.
But you might never get to meet the star of these “birthday parties”, because such events, also known as Kpop fan projects, are organised by Kpop fans – and for Kpop fans only.
While fan projects are common among Kpop fans in South Korea, the trend seems to have reached our shores recently. Similar fan support events were organised for girl group concerts, Red Velvet and Twice, in Singapore last year.
To find out more about this growing trend, Youth.SG spoke to three BTS fans (also known as ARMYs) who have been busy planning their own projects for the BTS Love Yourself World Tour concert happening on Jan 19 in Singapore.
Increasing interest in Kpop fan projects
While there are many versions of Kpop fan projects, most Kpop fans in Singapore get involved in Kpop idol café events and fan support projects.
Kpop idol café events are usually organised to celebrate a Kpop idol’s birthday or a Kpop group’s anniversary, allowing fans to gather and interact with each another.
In fan support projects, fans sell or distribute self-designed merchandise, such as cup sleeves and photo cards to other like-minded fans.
Supporting each other with fan projects
The three BTS fans we spoke to shared that they were inspired to start their own fan projects after seeing how other successful events have brought fandom communities closer.
After attending several fan support events, Selina Chua organised her first birthday café event in September last year.
The 16-year-old student said: “In June 2018, my friend suggested I hold my own birthday café event for [BTS member] Jungkook since his birthday was coming up.
“I felt it would be meaningful to hold a café event to celebrate his birthday and give back to Singaporean ARMYs at the same time.”
Since October last year, Shermaine Lim, 16, has designed and printed 400 photo cards and strips, 100 hand-held fans and 100 pieces of holographic stickers for her fan support event happening this Saturday.
“My online ARMY friends helped me publicise my fan support by sharing my notice. Now, my fan support is pretty well-known.
“What I wish to see from [my project] are the smiles of other fans looking at my designs of their favourite Kpop idols and knowing that I made their day,” said Shermaine, who has been supporting the band since Feb 2017.
For BTS fan Lau Wei Ling, hosting such events allows her to gather and chit chat with other Singaporean ARMYs.
“A lot of people turned up for my café event and after it ended, I saw ARMYs thanking my friends and I on Twitter for organising the event,” said 16-year-old student Wei Ling.
She had organised a café event with her friend, 18-year old student Wong Yi Qian, around Christmas last year.
Sacrificing time and money to run fan projects
To run their Kpop idol café events, some save part of their monthly allowance or take up part-time jobs.
Based on Selina and Wei Ling’s experience, a café event can cost $50 to $800, depending on the venue and preparation of the fan support merchandise, which forms the bulk of their expenses.
However, organising these café events, which take anything from a couple of weeks to a few months, can be quite stressful for these young fans.
“I want to organise my own café event one day, but it’s expensive. For now, I start small with fan support projects which tend to cost less,” said Shermaine, who has spent approximately $250 printing her self-designed merchandise.
Despite being supported by other BTS fans, some fan project organisers receive criticisms about their passion.
“People do judge us for being passionate about [our fan projects], but since it’s something we like to do, we continue to organise fan projects to make other fans’ day,” said Shermaine.
Some fans also have high expectations for these fan projects, and organisers have to work hard to produce better merchandise or bonding sessions.
Shermaine, who plans to design more fan support merchandise for BTS, added: “Because of their ongoing support, I pressed on and they liked my designs, which made it all worth it.”
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