Sasaeng fan

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In South Korean culture, a sasaeng or sasaeng fan (Hangul사생팬; Hanja私生) is an over-obsessive fan of a Korean idol, or other public figure, that has engaged in stalking or other behaviour that constitutes an invasion of privacy. The term sasaeng comes from the Korean words sa (Hangul; Hanja) meaning "private" and saeng (Hangul; Hanja) meaning "life," in reference to the fans' intrusion into the celebrities' private lives.[1] According to estimates given by celebrity managers to Korean media, popular Korean celebrities "have between 500 to 1,000 sasaeng fans" and are actively followed by about 100 sasaeng fans every day.[2] Sasaeng fans are generally said to be females aged 13 to 22 years old who are driven to commit acts of, in some cases, borderline criminal behavior in order to get the attention of celebrities. These acts may include but are not limited to: seeking out celebrities at their dorms or homes, stealing their personal belongings or information, harassing their family members, and sending idols inappropriate "gifts" such as lingerie.[3]


Taiwanese k-pop fans of the group SHINee. The growing influence of Hallyu draws in many fans of k-pop abroad.

Although the term "sasaeng" was only coined much later to describe highly obsessive and disruptive fan behavior, such behavior has existed since the 1990s with the dawn of K-pop idol groups and "fandoms", as noted by local English-language newspaper Korea JoongAng Daily in a 2001 article.[4] Industry veterans as well as members of first generation groups such as H.O.T. and g.o.d have related accounts of witnessing or being victims of such fan behavior even prior to the digital era.[5][6][7][8] With the rapid development of the Korean popular culture industry and the spread of the Hallyu wave internationally in the 2000s and recent years, increasingly extreme and disruptive fan behaviors towards Korean idols and celebrities have also been witnessed abroad, with some international fans even flying to South Korea in order to attend concerts of their idols.[3]

In the media

Sasaeng fans are understood in the media as beginning as part of the "normal" fandom before abandoning their own personal and social lives in order to stand out or become closer to an idol or celebrity.[9] The media's portrayal of sasaeng behavior is often surrounded by discourses of fear and stigma against selectively represented behaviors, which are viewed as problematic, including skipping school and sleeping in internet cafes to meet with idols.

Typically, media coverage of sasaeng fan behavior will report upon an instance or instances of socially problematic fan behavior, with criticisms of this behavior coming from sources including "average" fans, industry representatives, and other individuals in social positions which lend a perception of moral upstanding. Fans of k-pop are often quick to draw boundaries between the "normal" part of a fandom and the part that is said to characterize a sasaeng fan. Sasaeng fan identity as constructed in mass and social media is often described in extremities; media frequently uses undesirable terms such as "crazed", "obsessive", "abnormal", "psychotic", and "disturbing" to describe such fans.[9]

Selected incidents


K-pop boy bands TVXQ and JYJ, in particular, have been the targets of many sasaeng fans. Sasaeng fans were reported to have tapped TVXQ's phones, broken into the band's apartment, and poisoned member Yunho, who had to have his stomach pumped as a result. Saesang fans also installed cameras into JYJ's Yoochun's private parking lot.[2] In 2012, audio was uploaded on an online message board of Yoochun and bandmate Jaejoong apparently yelling at and hitting female fans.[10] JYJ members addressed the recording during a press conference, when Yoochun said that the group had been followed by sasaeng fans for eight years (since they were members of TVXQ), saying that the constant surveillance "felt like prison." Band member Junsu mentioned incidents where saesang fans tapped his private phone calls, installed GPS trackers on the band's cars, and broke into their private property. At the press conference, Jaejoong issued an apology for lashing out at fans.[11] A video of TVXQ member Changmin dragging and throwing a fan from her cab was uploaded in 2018.[12]

Car accidents

Numerous Korean idols have gotten into car accidents while being followed by sasaeng fans. In 2011, two members of Super Junior were caught in a six-car pile-up after being chased by eight fan vehicles in Singapore. The members, Leeteuk and Heechul, were unharmed, but Heechul later tweeted that he still suffered after-effects from the accident and was often afraid to drive.[13][14] In 2013, Seungri of Big Bang suffered minor injuries from a car accident in Shanghai involving a sasaeng fan.[15] In 2015, Chanyeol of Exo wrote on Weibo that he was constantly followed by 20 fan vehicles during a visit to Shanghai.[16] In 2016, Jackson of Got7 sustained minor injuries after getting into an accident with a fan who was following his car closely on his way to an airport in China.[17]

Home intrusion

Korean idols have reported being followed home by sasaeng fans. Idols including Jung Yong-hwa of CNBLUE, Zico of Block B, Junho of 2PM, and Lay of Exo have reported incidents of sasaeng fans following them home or attempting to break in to their homes.[18][19][20][21] In 2014, a fan unlawfully entered singer Seo Taiji's home and was found sitting in the singer's car when police arrived. Seo did not press charges against the fan, who admitted to have "lurked" around the singer's home before.[22]

Legal response

In February 2011, a clause was added to South Korea's Minor Offenses Act, aiming to protect idols from overzealous fans. That same year, the South Korean government's Korea Creative Content Agency reportedly founded a support center for celebrities to offer counseling services meant "to relieve [celebrities] from any psychological stress."[23]

The Minor Offences Act was revised in March 2013 so that a conviction of stalking would lead to a fine of KRW 80,000 (about USD 72 at the time).[24] However, due to increased concerns and a rising number of victims related to stalking, a South Korean law was introduced in February 2016 that would increase the penalty for stalking to KRW 20 million (about USD 17,000 at the time), as well as a possible two-year jail sentence.[25][26]

In popular culture

Some commentators have noted that the television series Reply 1997 satirized sasaeng fan behavior.[27]


  1. ^ Lansky, Sam (2012-09-10). "Hallyu Tsunami: The Unstoppable (and Terrifying) Rise of K-Pop Fandom". Grantland. Retrieved 2017-05-24. 
  2. ^ a b Soh, Elizabeth (2012-08-02). "Sasaeng Stalkers (Part 1): K-pop fans turn to blood, poison for attention". Yahoo! Singapore. Retrieved 2017-05-24. 
  3. ^ a b Williams, J & Xiang Xin Ho, Samantha. (2015). “Sasaengpaen” or K-pop Fan? Singapore Youths, Authentic Identities, and Asian Media Fandom. Deviant Behavior. 1-14. 10.1080/01639625.2014.983011.
  4. ^ "[ENTERTAINMENT] Fan Cults: Social Problem or Stress Reliever?". Korea JoongAng Daily (in Korean). April 9, 2001. 
  5. ^ "팬과 스타 서로 힘 되는 '쌍방 통행'". Weekly Dong-A (The Dong-a Ilbo) (in Korean). June 2, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Attack on TV Star Renews Old Fears". The Chosun Ilbo. February 21, 2008. 
  7. ^ "Spotlight: Let's Dance With Moon Hee-jun". January 29, 2013. 
  8. ^ "토니안 사생팬, "H.O.T 시절 목욕 모습 훔쳐본 팬과 눈 마주쳐" 경악". The Chosun Ilbo (in Korean). July 29, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Williams, J. Patrick (2016). "Negotiating Fan Identities in K-Pop Music Culture". Studies in Symbolic Interaction. 47: 81–96 – via Emerald Group Publishing Limited. 
  10. ^ "JYJ Accused of Verbally and Physically Abusing Female Fans". Soompi. 2012-03-06. Retrieved 2017-05-24. 
  11. ^ "JYJ Opens Up About Verbally Abusing Fans". Soompi. 2012-03-09. Retrieved 2017-05-24. 
  12. ^ チャンミン 88 (2018-04-20), 최강창민 チャンミン Changmin 暴行 TVXQ 東方神起 동방신기, retrieved 2018-04-24 
  13. ^ Chua, Charlene (2011-01-31). "Korean boyband in 6-vehicle pile-up on ECP". Asia One. Retrieved 2017-05-30. 
  14. ^ Danbi Hong, Grace (2012-07-10). "Super Junior′s Heechul Rants about Sasaeng Fans and Corrupt Taxi Drivers Before Deactivating Twitter". Mnet. Retrieved 2017-05-30. 
  15. ^ Kim, Ji-yeon (2013-12-24). "승리, 23일 중국서 사생팬 추격에 교통사고 '다행히 부상없어'" [Seungri in traffic accident in China on 23rd, 'Fortunately no injuries']. enews24 (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-05-30. 
  16. ^ "찬열, 中사생팬에 경고 '차 20대가 따라와, 사고날 뻔 했다'". My Daily (in Korean). 2015-11-03. Retrieved 2017-05-30. 
  17. ^ Kaur, Gungeet (2016-09-02). "Got7's Jackson suffers car crash, rapper might not perform in Japan concert". International Business Times. Retrieved 2017-05-30. 
  18. ^ Ko, Ji-seon (2015-09-30). "Jung Yong-hwa asks fans not to come to his apartment". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2017-05-30. 
  19. ^ Kim, Ji-young (2016-01-28). "Fan attempts to get into Zico's house". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2017-05-30. 
  20. ^ Son, Ji-hyoung (2016-09-08). "2PM's Junho speaks out against obsessive fans". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2017-05-30. 
  21. ^ Son, Ji-hyoung (2016-09-22). "EXO member Lay's Chinese agency warns stalking fans". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2017-05-30. 
  22. ^ Sohn, Ji-young (2014-06-25). "Seo Taiji won't press charges against fan intruder". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2017-05-30. 
  23. ^ Khairat, Sara (2012-11-28). "Korean pop's giant leap with 'Gangnam' steps". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2017-05-31. 
  24. ^ "Get tough on stalking". Korea JoongAng Daily. 2013-08-19. Retrieved 2017-05-31. 
  25. ^ Nasif, Dalal (2016-02-06). "'Sasaengs' or Stalkers Could Face Two Years In Prison And Heavy Fines Under A New Law In South Korea". Korea Portal. Retrieved 2017-05-31. 
  26. ^ Kim, Se-jeong (2016-01-28). "Stalkers to face harsher punishment". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2017-05-31. 
  27. ^ "Answer Me 1997 and Humanizing Sasaeng Fans". August 25, 2012. 
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