AustralianSana & Kpopalypse – Episode 2: Infinite sasaengs, “cancel culture”, Gfriend and more

It’s time for AustralianSana and Kpopalypse to reunite for the second interview episode!

This second episode of AustralianSana and Kpopalypse was one where we allowed anonymous readers to pick all the topics, for AustralianSana and Kpopalypse to both discuss freely.  Kpopalypse is the indented/quoted text, AustralianSana is the plain text.  Read on and be informed!

Thanks for doing this again, much appreciated!

You mentioned the last one worked out pretty well, so…

It had an exceptionally positive reaction.  People really liked it and when I get to the questions for this one, you’ll see that the reaction continues there and a lot of people had really good things to say.

Somewhat surprised given – as I’m sure that you can see from my Twitter recently – that positive reactions to my account aren’t exactly the norm right now!

Yes I did pick up on that, and I might just get stuck into the first question, as a couple of the questions are specifically relevant to that.

Sure, go right ahead!

So the first one’s not really a question, it’s more of just a comment.  “AustralianSana is revealed to be TATAdventures and all hell broke lose.  As her avid Twitter follower, I’d seen her first post of her Tata plush in her Tasmanian trip and witnessed the creation of TATAdventures and its growth thereof.  I didn’t exactly follow the account because I’m not a BTS fan, but yeah, seeing some Armys ganging up on her, I saw it coming.”  Did you see it coming?

Absolutely.  I have addressed it actually on the TATAdventures account several times, that I was not a popular account in the fandom on my main.  I tried to be as subtle about it as I could.  I made a Tweet today earlier online trying to explain the situation, because I didn’t have a choice to back out of the account after it blew up without it blowing up in my face.  In terms of seeing it coming, I saw it coming when it suddenly became popular.  I never expected the account to be popular, as the person said I made the account when I went to Tasmania because “Tata, Tasmania, ah it’s a lame pun!” and I’ve seen some people take pictures of stuffed dolls on Instagram and I thought it would just be a cute little holiday idea, but I actually had a lot of fun when I was doing it so I was like “oh, I might turn this into a regular thing and make it on Twitter” and I asked my followers about it and would anyone would be interested in this and I had about five likes on the idea.  So I honestly expected only 20 followers, and then I…

And then you got 60,000!  [laughs]

Horrible.  I made one post that went viral and that was the “nobody helps me in this house” and that got 39 thousand retweets, and from that, it was instantly ten thousand followers overnight, and that’s when I kind of realised that I was up shit creek without a paddle.

AustralianSana’s viral tweet on the @TATAdventures account.

Either I reveal myself then when I suddenly got 10k followers and then suddenly all these people who hated me in the (BTS) fandom for years would try to ruin the account instantly, or do I just keep it back for a while and hope that I can let the heat die down, hopefully the account doesn’t blow up much more, and I tried to divert the attention away from me, because I saw lots of people making their own BT21 accounts, there’s hundreds of them now.  So I was like “please go and follow these other people, it’s not just me doing it, I don’t own any ideas, this is just my little place please go away”.  But it just kept growing, and growing, and growing, and growing, and growing, and it got to the stage where people started making comments – I’d noticed it as a recurring theme, not super-all the time, but it was beginning to happen more and more – “I know who runs TATAdventures, DM me if you want to know!”, that kind of secret-ness, and I felt ” I’m just really not in the mood for this whole “exposing” trend, I run the account, get over it” and I outed myself as running it the other day because I was just like “fuck it”, I’d had enough.  It was an awful, awful experience as I’m sure anyone who goes on Twitter and searches “TATAdventures AustralianSana” and looks at the hundreds of results that come up will be able to see for themselves.  It was awful, but at least it was a weight off my shoulders, and I don’t feel like I’m constantly paranoid about someone exposing my account because I just went ahead and exposed myself!

AustralianSana sharing her TATAdventures Twitter activity. Readers, don’t forget to follow @AustralianSana on Twitter for good clean fun times.

The last I saw on your Twitter, you were going to be keeping TATAdventures running, is that correct?

I will be keeping it for now as a private account.

Let’s move onto the next one.  There’s a few different questions here so I’ll stop after each one and give you a chance to respond.  “Such a great series! I follow AustralianSana’s tweets for a long time and even if I don’t always agree with her, she’s a very reasonable person. And you and her seem to have opposite opinions about some things (and you both can express them in clever ways so it’s not like an idiot vs the voice of common sense or something) so it’s making that even more interesting.  Some topic suggestions (probably not that interesting, but if you don’t like it you can just ignore):  1. Kpopalypse seems to think “fuck the artist’s personal life, all that matters is music” but AS think we should not support shitty people even if music is good. Maybe some kind of “stanning problematic idols vs cancelling them” discussion?”


So where do you draw the line?  Say if – and I know it’s not likely to happen – but say if Nicki Minaj released something that you really liked musically, how would you feel about that?

It really depends on the “crime” vs the song.  When you’re talking about problematic people it kind of goes both ways with “cancelling”, because you can see exactly what’s happened to my account being witch-hunted, what’s actually problematic vs a witch-hunt?  So someone would have had to have done something really shit for me to cancel them to the point of “I can’t believe people are still supporting this garbage”.  One of those examples is Chris Brown – I don’t know how anybody is able to support him after he violently assaulted a woman, in this case Rihanna.  Nicki Minaj is a hard line I guess, because it’s obviously her brother but she supports her brother, but it’s the fact that she was using BTS in the situation that we discussed last time…. so it depends on the offence really.  Chris Brown abusing a woman, I can’t support that, in any situation really.

The way I’ve always felt about it is, before discovering k-pop I’d mainly been listening to heavy metal music, punk music, rap music, the fairly extreme versions thereof, and there’s a lot of very “problematic” people in those scenes, like Varg Vikernes (Burzum) who killed a guy, GG Allin who did a number of years in jail for sexually assaulting someone onstage and was arrested about 50 times for various offences, etc.  I guess I completely got out of the habit of even looking at that side of things.  It’s really hard for me to draw any line at all, because when I look at my collection of music, if I turfed out anything where I didn’t agree with things that the people stand for, I literally wouldn’t have anything left to listen to.  So when I came into k-pop I sort of approached it with an attitude of that even the most extreme situations in k-pop, say something like Iron is a good example, is probably not really that extreme compared to stuff that is in my CD collection or even stuff from people who I personally know who are in music.  One guy in my town who did music actually went to jail for strangling a guy to death, which is rather an unfortunate situation – on the one hand I felt like “what are you doing with your life to do something that stupid” but on the other hand I did enjoy his creativity while he was doing it.  That was one of the things that really got into blogging in the first place as well, because when the whole T-ara situation happened and all the fake “bullying” rumours, one of the things that I thought of immediately when it happened – and I could see that it was nonsense pretty much straight away, but the other thought I had was that even if everything that people were saying about them was true, it’s still not very extreme a thing, compared to say 80% of my record collection.  So if I try to draw a line somewhere it just gets too confusing and I lock myself out of too much music.  I mean, if they all made shitty music like Chris Brown it would be easy!  [laughs]

There’s a song by Chris Brown that I do like, it’s called “Deuces” and I do think that’s a really good song, and I feel like I’m capable of recognising that as a really good song but I wouldn’t go out and financially support him by purchasing it because it would be enabling him to have a career.  Not just a career, but a career in an industry that typically has young impressionable fans.  I feel like that’s the main factor here as well.  You see a lot of young girls who are Chris Brown fans, maybe not now, but back when he was more relevant, who would try and justify the behaviour that he did in terms of abusing Rihanna when that happened.  It was kind of scary watching that happen, kind of like Kim Hyun Joong and the way he assaulted his ex, and we still see him having thousands and thousands of fans who are not only still supporting him but actively trying to ruin that woman’s life, who is his victim.  So it’s that level of extremlity that I don’t see any redeeming possibilities for.

I suppose the difference between k-pop and music in a fair few other styles is you don’t have that extremely young impressionable audience.  Most people who listen to Burzum just go “oh yeah, Varg is a dickhead” – some people might believe in what he talks about, but I think most people are like “well I don’t really care, I just want to hear music that I like”, whereas in k-pop because they’re not really selling the music as much as selling the people, maybe the moral integrity of the people is a deeper issue for some people.

I’d agree with that, I feel like that’s my personal opinion of it.  But then it’s like the line again becomes what level of influence do you put upon the responsibility of the person.  What’s the pedestal that we’re putting them on, how perfect do they really have to be and that’s where I try to have a boundary of “they’re human – just don’t be an actual dickhead justifying violence against women or something to that extreme”.  I’d easily forgive mistakes, but there’s a difference between mistakes and ill intent, and I think intent is the most important factor for me before I have to cancel someone.

Let’s move onto our next point this person had which is: “2. People like to say “kpop fandoms are annoying/insane” but isn’t it partially the fault of how companies market kpop groups? I think sasaeng etc culture is (in some ways) is encouraged by companies because they make more money on that most die-hard and competitive fans.”

Absolutely.  I’ve been saying that for years, and I’ve also been saying that particularly as a fan of Infinite, I’ve witnessed it first-hand with the way that Woollim encourage their sasaengs.  It was really really really bad in the Inspirit fandom, because Woollim is a small company, so they didn’t particularly have the same level of influence as trying to debut a group from SM Entertainment or YG Entertainment at the time, that almost comes with a guaranteed fanbase.  So they had to launch Infinite with barely any money and they pretty much relied on psychotic fans to build that fandom, the Inspirits.  For example, not only did they rely on the sasaengs, they heavily encouraged their behaviour.  They opened what was called NIT Cafe directly across the road from Woollim Entertainment, and they sent out Tweets encouraging fans to go there, but the cafe itself has an Instagram, I think it had a Twitter page at some point or a Facebook page, and the cafe especially during the week that it opened… I happened to be there during the week that it opened just by pure coincidence, and there were all these Tweets going around saying “come to NIT Cafe!” and Sungjong posted a selfie on that cafe’s Twitter, so it heavily implied “go to the cafe, and you can see Infinite in person”.  So I went to cafe and it was basically like watching a madhouse.  It started out the first time I went as actually being pretty chill, I watched someone walk across the road and give Sunggyu a letter, and he calmly accepted it – she just waked across, gave it to him, he accepted it and walked away.  I thought “that’s nice, it’s a way to give the idols a letter, I don’t have any particular letter myself to give”.  So it seemed like it wasn’t just Woollim but the members had to sort of encourage it as well, and then it gradually kind of got worse.

I went back maybe two or three more times, and every time I went back it got worse.  The next time I went I had a camera because I’m a tourist, and I happen to do photography quite decently, I’ve taken some photos at concerts before, so I was like oh cool, this will be a great way for me to get some photos of Infinite when I’m in Korea, because there were photos posted on Twitter.  There was nothing (in the cafe) saying don’t photograph them, nobody came up to me when I had the camera saying “don’t photograph them” – and the car arrived and Dongwoo got out of the car.  I held up my camera towards him, I’m sitting right at the front of the window and I’ve got a camera and gave him non-verbal cues like “is it okay if I take your photo?” and he reacted really positively to it and kind of started posing so I got a few good photos of Dongwoo from that.  Then the next time, L was there.  It’s like a really lame recurring joke on my Twitter account that I don’t like L, I have no bad feelings towards him at all, but when he was there I had another friend with me, and I didn’t even notice that he was there but she pointed it out and said “oh he ran into that building really quickly, that’s rude” and then I said “huh?” and she said “he clearly doesn’t want to be here”.  Then I saw him run back into the car, and I had my camera with me again, the way I had it for Dongwoo, and I took a picture of him in the car and he was absolutely scowling, like he was not happy at all.

AustralianSana’s photo of L (Infinite).  Click for full size.

My first instinctive reaction was “oh, well that’s stuck-up, because Dongwoo was happy to take photos, Sunggyu was happy to take a fan letter, why is L being all high and mighty and thinking he’s too good for everyone?”  Then it was like wait a minute, critical thinking comes in and you kind of call yourself out on your own bullshit – he had absolutely no obligation to smile and take photos out the front of the building when the poor guy is just trying to get to work.  That is a specific example of Woollim highly encouraging sasaeng behaviour, profiting off it in the form of that cafe, opening the cafe and making money off that cafe, to essentially house sasaengs.  It got worse and worse.

I imagine Woollim’s policy would have changed over time as well, perhaps by the time you saw L there was a change in policy where they thought “now that we have a bit of a base of these people let’s not engage with them so much”.

Yeah, and it’s absolutely his right to not have to engage as well.  On a personal note, I would feel bad, if I ever got to meet the person which I highly doubt, but if I did I would easily apologise and say “hey I’m really sorry I made you feel uncomfortable, I did what I thought was acceptable because of the implications of the way that the company had presented NIT Cafe” but it was never my intent to make him upset.

He probably doesn’t remember it…

Exactly!  He wouldn’t remember me from a bar of soap.

He probably deals with a few hundred people per day doing that to him!

The point of it I guess is that I never intended to do that to someone and I do feel bad for the fact that I did, and it’s kind of like a learning curve.  I use that as an example of condemning that behaviour and also calling myself out on my own behaviour.  Everyone whenever they’re called out on stuff tends to play the “oh I didn’t know, it wasn’t my fault, I didn’t mean it that way” but what you mean and what you actually do can sometimes be two different things.

But on the other hand you can’t be too hard on yourself when the company was very much encouraging the behaviour in the first place.

Yep.  So I don’t beat myself up over it, or lose sleep over it, it’s just a matter of being able to acknowledge “yeah, what I did wasn’t intentional, but it was the wrong thing, don’t do it again”.

Without the firsthand experience of fandoms that you have, I generally agree with your points there and don’t really have anything to add.  Let’s move on.  I’m not sure what they mean by this question… “3. Can average kpop fan do something with shitty and morally doubtful strategies by companies? What should people do if they feel kpop business treat idols like an object and breaks them mentally and various unfair behaviour, should we still listen to kpop because we can’t change anything at all or should we do something else?”

I kind of get what they’re trying to say, should we boycott the industry because of how they treat the idols….

I think that’s the general gist, yeah.

I think you can support them but you just got to be self-aware of it, don’t feed into it too much.  Be able to draw your own boundaries.  Jist giving that example of what I did with L, just because the company says you can go and sit across from the building and watch them and encourages you to do that, doesn’t actually make that the right thing to do.

I think that in terms of supporting people or whatever, most of what a fan does isn’t going to make the company that much money directly anyway.  Idols see virtually no money from sales or anything, unless you are in that absolute top A-list, if you’re like BTS or Twice, someone like that who is really pulling in lots of physical product.  Buying a thing doesn’t really have that much direct impact.  That’s why when you have Makestar, the gifts that you get at the different Makestar tiers are pretty much worth exactly the same amount of money that you’re putting in, and the reason why companies can afford to do that is that they haven’t really got their hearts set on making tons of money out of the thing anyway, it’s other places where the money is made.  My point here is that a lot of people couldn’t support their idols, even if they wanted to!

It’s definitely not a profitable industry, but then that’s pretty much the music industry in general these days.

Yeah that’s correct!  We’ll move onto another question: Hi there! I am really happy to see AS on Kpopalypse — she and I chatted a few times on Twitter (I was happy to find someone with the same Infinite bias as me who seemed to have a decent head on her shoulders) but I don’t use Twitter anymore so I hadn’t seen what she was up to for a while.  Anyway, at the time I was following AS she was very much a fan of GFriend, which may or may not still be true, but please talk girl groups!  What makes you like a group, not like a group, identify with a group, etc.  Also “The Chaser” is the greatest, thank you, carry on.

Excellent!  Get that Chaser promo, even though my group is essentially dead! [laughs]

What is it that makes me like a group?  I don’t know – if there were super-specific things or characteristics that would guarantee to make someone like a group, someone would have figured it out by now, how to guarantee a top idol group, but it’s different for different people.  For me, music enjoyability is the prime factor, how much do I enjoy their songs.  For me Gfriend was a really overall package of things that I like.  I really really love 90s pop music, the original Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, that kind of stuff so that nostalgic vibe is definitely in Gfriend’s music, so that was a huge selling point for me.  I watched a couple of their variety shows and I found them genuinely entertaining, they’re really funny as people.  For me as well it was their performance – I went to an MNet Countdown recording in 2015 mainly going to see Infinite, and Gfriend happened to be performing as well as they happened to have that comeback stage then too.  That was the first time I’d ever seen them perform, and they did the leapfrog split-jump that that song became known for, and this was a group that I barely heard of before.  I knew a bit about them but wasn’t a fan either and I suddenly saw them leapfrogging across the stage doing acrobatics and I was super super impressed by it, I was like “holy shit this is awesome, I’m stanning!” so that was a huge part of getting into Gfriend as an overall package.  I liked their debut but didn’t stan either.  That performance was what really got me interested.

Photo of Gfriend by AustralianSana.  Click for full size.

As for not liking groups, contrary to popular belief on Twitter, there’s no groups who I really don’t like!  I don’t have an avid dislike of anyone.  Everyone seems to think that I hate Blackpink, and I’m anti-YG.  I hate YG as a man because of the shit hat he has done throughout his history, I don’t have any bad feelings about Blackpink at all and I quite enjoy a few of their songs.  So I really don’t have any groups that I hate!

I’ll get back to Blackpink fans a bit later on!

Oh god…

[laughs] Obviously I care about music, I really don’t care about anything else.  If there’s people in the group who I find attractive then I guess that’s nice, but really they’re all kind of generically attractive in the same sort of way with minor variations, to be honest.  That’s part of the reason why I post about women on my blog the way that I do.  All the posts that are supposedly “fap posts” are really something completely different underneath the surface, and I think that should be fairly clear to most readers.  If you’re someone who’s clicking on “best boobs in k-pop part whatever” and the only one who gets a 10/10 is some Candaian v-logger, then that should tell them something, that maybe I’m not taking things very seriously, and that maybe I’m trying to get them into the idea that losing your shit over some attractive woman in a group is kind of a bit silly.  I mean, I can appreciate someone looking nice, like anybody can, but it’s not something to get all excited about really, because they’re just performing a job.  They don’t get to decide what they do, how they look, how they dress, what sort of concepts they get, and they’re going to be completely different (in person).  I also know that from firsthand experience because I know a few people who are in the music scene in the west who I’m in close connection with who have fairly “adult” sort of images.  I know one girl who used to be a stripper and then joined a band with me and a friend, and was like “wow I actually enjoy being in a band more than stripping, it’s kind of cool” but she’s not a promiscuous person at all, she’s actually quite shy, and the whole reason why she wanted to do stripping was to force herself to break out of her shyness.  It was basically a way to gain more self-confidence in doing something creative, and then music just became an extension of that and she eventually just gave the stripping up and did music because she found that music did it a little more effectively.  I’m sort of rambling a bit, back the the point – I like music, and I’m used to consuming music (on its own) as well.  Coming from a metal/punk background, half the time I don’t even know what the performers look like.  Half of my favourite groups I still don’t know what they look like, because they don’t really put themselves out there visually, the album cover is just a goat’s head with some blood or something like that.  So I’m used to listening to the music first and then looking at all the other stuff later and going “oh that’s nice” or “that’s not nice” or whatever, but not really caring.

It’s a fair commentary to have given that k-pop is a very visual industry.  When I talk about BTS there’s certainly a hell of a lot more things that I like about them besides their physical appearance, but at the same time I absolutely find Hoseok especially to be super good looking.  I find him really good looking, I enjoy looking at photos of him, and I find his features to be really striking, and then I watch him perform on a stage and find him to be one of the most magnetic performers that I’ve pretty much ever seen out of any industry, not just k-pop but pop music in general, rock music, all the other music I listen to.  I think he’s a phenomenal performer.

But you can still take a step back from that as well and say “I don’t like their most recent song”, or something like that, right?

Yeah.  If you’re going to go into Armys especially after the last week on my Twitter account…

[laughs] Let’s move on!  We talked about BTS a lot last time anyway, so we kind of already know what you think of that.


Next question: “I’m sorry but I legitimately want to hear you both talk about Loona’s unconventional rise (although they aren’t at the peak of their career yet).”

I funnily enough was interested in Loona right from the first girl which was Heejin.  I was studying abroad in Korea at the time when their debut concept came out, and I found it really interesting, knowing how expensive it is to launch a group from reading different blogs and having an interest in the industry as a whole, I was like “how the fuck is the label going to be able to afford to put out twelve girls’ solos without a proper debut before they launch the whole group itself” and I was going around Seoul, and I saw lots of billboards for Heejin, and flags and stuff, and they were in these super-expensive high-top real estate areas, so for example Myungdon, Hongdae, lots in Hongdae, places that cost a shitload of money to advertise on, and it’ wasn’t just like a couple of things at train stations the way that fansite will do for a birthday.  They were like the full-on most expensive billboards that are massive and everyone sees when they go past.  So it was like “how the fuck is this company affording this?”

[laughs] And you know the answer to that, right?

What was it, they sell arms?

Yeah, Blockberry Creative is a subsidiary of Ilkwang Group who is a multinational company that, among other things, deals in arms and armaments.  Loona is fairly obviously a vanity project by a particular individual or group of individuals (associated with Ilkwang) who have a serious amount of money to burn, and are like “well, let’s try this cool concept, we’ve got lots and lots of money, let’s just do it, and if it doesn’t make money then hey at least we had a bit of fun doing this cool concept, and if it does then great.”

Yeah it was fascinating to watch that and then eventually figure that answer out!  So that for me was how I got into them, and then I was interested in that and listened to the music.  The music itself is really good.  The first song with Heejin, “Vivid“, that was written by the same people who worked on Infinite’s “The Chaser”, fun fact.  I’m pretty sure that was Monotree, Monotree used to be Sweetune (I’m gonna look like a fuckin’ idiot if that isn’t right but I’m pretty sure it is)… and a lot of their other solos that came out were also super top-tier writers working on them.  Kim Lip’s “Eclipse” was written by the same people who did Red Velvet’s “Automatic“, another song which I really enjoyed.  Then I ended up getting into a fansign for Heejin and Hyunjin, they did a fansign together, Hyunjin was the second girl, and this was definitely back in the time before Loona was selling 50,000 copies in a week, this was back when they were selling less than the 100 albums required to fill out the fansign.  So it’s interesting that I can say I was a fan of this group before they became what they now are.  It was a fun experience, it was the first time I’d ever actually gotten to go to a fansign, because as I’m sure anyone can tell you they are fucking hard to get into because it’s just a lottery for rich people.

Do you think Loona’s strategy is actually going to work?

I’m not sure.  You can see on Twitter that they’ve managed to accumulate a fairly big international fanbase quite quickly, it’s been the Korean fanbase that’s been so far difficult to build, and maybe it’s a matter of time will tell, but I hope they do, because they’ve been putting out really top quality music.  They’ve got a lot of good people working with them.

I’ve felt that some of Loona’s marketing has been similar to BTS’s marketing, in the sense of the high reliance of social media.  Not exactly the same, but in terms of having the long-running Loona TV episodes and stuff like that, from long before the group debuted.  Do you think that’s true?

I can see the point, but I also feel like a lot of other groups have been doing that too, so then where do you draw the line between “this is a BTS impact” vs “this is just a really common strategy using social media”, that’s what everyone pretty much has to adapt to now because it’s the only way that you can really try to build a fanbase.

We’ll go to the next question: I would love for you and AustralianSana to talk about mental health in K-pop; from the angles of idols in the business, to their relationship with their fans, to the fans own mental health as well as the toxicity that fandoms can breed. Thanks for considering!

This is very interesting, again, trying not to bring this back to BTS and Armys, but everyone’s getting mad in my mentions because I made a sarcastic comment  and they’re using it as the “proof” that I’m a secret anti-fan in disguise, when I jokingly said that Sockjin had borderline narcissistic personality disorder because he had a big ego and I was like “no that wasn’t what I meant, it was just sarcasm, it was a joke” but the biggest backlash that I’ve gotten because of that with fans is them saying “who do you think you are going around diagnosing people with mental illness”.  So that’s me not actually intending to diagnose someone with a mental illness vs this question which is now specifically saying “what’s your thought on mental illness in k-pop fans?” That’s like – hard.  How can you do that without pissing people off and the answer is you cannot.  If I were to think about that I wouldn’t be talking to you.

[laughs]  I can go first, if you want!

Either or!  I’ve definitely got thoughts on it and I’ve blogged about it before on the now pretty much defunct InfinitelySY blog page which I was running but just couldn’t be bothered keeping up, but I get really shitty with fans who use mental illness to justify toxic behaviour.  My fandom for example, going back to the sasaeng stuff that happened with Infinite, is like a super-long story that I won’t tell today, but it would just absolutely take up way too much time, of a fan who was part of that NIT Cafe, who definitely crossed lines.  Who stalked them to their hotels, followed Sungyeol around Korea, to his family restaurant, all that shit, and when I called her out on it she was like “oh – I’m depressed, Infinite makes me feel better, they saved my life!” and it’s like “fucking hell, if I have to listen to one more sasaeng, or insane fan talk about “this k-pop group has saved my life, and it’s my only chance I’m ever going to get to see them, so that means I pretty much have license to do whatever the hell I want to them” and that’s not fuckin’ how it works”.

I think that k-pop in general, and not just k-pop in general but pop music in general, is actually a really negative thing for the mental health of listeners, because of the way that it promotes “love lyrics”, it basically creates a desire for a situation which is never actually going to exist for the people who listen to it, because actual love and actual relationships – and I’m not even talking about specific people, or “you’re going to be able to date Britney Spears” or anything like that, I’m just talking about how love and relationships in general are a very different kettle of fish in reality to how they are portrayed in pop music.  To me, that has more negative values and negative behavioural connotations than something like GG Allin singing about how he’s going to rape someone, because nobody’s actually going to take GG Allin seriously.  Whereas the people who listen to pop music and “love lyrics” probably do desire that sort of situation.

I feel like when you bring up rape lyrics as an example that can also be a really hard line to draw, because on the one hand do you let people vent through creative expression, and therefore not actually act out those ideas, or does allowing people to put out content like that impact the people listening and therefore sometimes validate people who are mentally ill.

That’s always been a debate within any sort of extreme media whether it be that sort of thing, or violence in movies or computer games, or any number of other things, there’s always the question of is it an outlet for people to get out those frustrations, or is it encouraging people.  Honestly I don’t actually know what the answer is to that, I know it’s something that’s been studied a lot, but I’m not an expert in that field so I couldn’t tell you what the answer is!

Yeah, that’s another thing we can do with these questions that we have – it’s fine to admit that we don’t have the answers to everything!

It might be something that I look up and check out.  I’ve always grown up with this freedom of speech mentality and that you shouldn’t really worry about it, but obviously some people do worry about it, so it’s probably worth addressing.

As far as idols business-wise, I know they have bad mental health because I’ve spoken to some who have, and I mean I don’t think all of them do.  I think it’s like being in any industry that thrives on exploitation, like the adult video industry or something like that.  It’s not a job for everybody, and it’s the sort of industry that will chew you up and spit you out, if you’re not mentally prepared to be in it.  But on the other hand that’s not to say that there aren’t people who can go into it and get really positive outcomes from it, but I think you have to be very aware of what you’re going into…

…and especially given that this is an industry that grooms people from a very young age, particularly their formative years.  For example, another quote that got completely taken out of context: I said “Jungkook debuted at the age of 15, he was therefore in his developmental years still, not a full-grown adult, I’m not saying he’s not capable of making his own decisions, but he’s not yet fully-developed, and that’s not a bad thing, that’s just any 15-year old boy.

If you’re being thrown into the idol industry at that young age…

…you’re being told by literally millions of people how perfect you are.  You’ve got fansites which are giving them super-expensive luxury gifts.  Apparently he had a Rolex at his graduation that was worth over $100,000, whether that’s actually true or not I don’t know, but I do know it was a Rolex watch.  So he was insanely spoiled, and at such a young age, so I said “it would be a miracle if he does grow up to be anything less than a psychopath”.  I’m not saying that he actually is one, again I’m not trying to diagnose people with mental illnesses that I don’t know, but those circumstances to grow up in as a young child are so not healthy.  It’s just not a normal environment for people to grow up in and for people to then be able to survive and cope with that, whether it’s k-pop or Justin Bieber in Canada or America or any other industry throughout the rest of the world, you have to go in with a sure sense of who you are and knowing yourself, and if you’re that age, which clearly he wouldn’t (know himself) at that time, through no fault of his own, it’s therefore a miracle if he’s able to get through that and come out as a good person – and from what I’ve seen, he does seem to have.  That’s from what I can say as a fan who doesn’t actually know him, but I’ve had no negative experiences with him, I’ve heard of no bad feedback about him, there’s always lots and lots of positive comments not just from people in the fandom, but from people who have worked with him.  They say he’s very humble and very nice, and you’d have to hope so, but yeah it’s a miracle that he is turning out to be such a good person.

This is why in the idol industry I’m very inclined to cut people a lot of slack when it comes to “problematic behaviour”.  I know that myself growing up, I certainly wasn’t in any type of situation that these idols are in, and I certainly said and did a lot of really ignorant shit when I was really young.  I can’t imagine how much more ignorant I would have been, if from the age of 12 or whatever, I would be spending 14 hours a day training, and living in this closed environment, where you have very little access to outside media, you don’t have your family around you, you only have a bunch of other people who are in exactly your situation who you may or may not get along with, and plus some people bossing you around.  To get out of that with your head screwed on, and not thinking some seriously problematic thoughts of some sort, is probably fairly rare!

Yep, I agree with that as well.  How do I put it exactly – “cancel culture” can be very harsh, but at the same time I can understand the perspective of the people who do it.  I mean how many times do you have to explain the same mistake over and over and over, with no-one listening to you, when you are a minority, and people are doing super-offensive things to you vs how are these people actually going to know for themselves until they’re the ones who fuck up really badly and they get called out for it.  I guess that’s how stan Twitter, as much as it can be a vicious beast, can also be beneficial in a way, because now companies may think “oh, this is going to impact our profits if our artists aren’t ‘woke’, so therefore maybe we’ll actually encourage them to educate their idols on things like the N-word”.

I think it’s more likely to make them tell their idols to shut up!  [laughs]

Well at least if they’re shutting up they’re not saying the N-word.

Yeah, but – which one’s worse, really?  If you’re still thinking it?

Yeah I get your point as well.  It’s more like they’re not properly educating them but at the same they’re at least not fucking up either.  But yeah it’s hard lines to draw, because they’re not being properly informed about these things but then they’re being held to expectations that are from people of a completely different culture where it’s like “how would they have been given access to the information to know that word isn’t right to say?”.

That’s a whole another discussion, we can probably leave that for the next one!  This next question, I don’t know if it’s directed at you or me, because I don’t actually know your opinion on this topic.  “Why are survival shows a waste of time for you, when people watch it and vote to create a group that THEY want to create? It’s like baking a cake with too many ingredients in it.”

I don’t know if it’s directed at you or me, but I have talked about survival shows being pointless before.

Yeah I really just don’t even watch them.  People ask me questions about survival shows all the time, and I’m like “whatever, wake me up when the full group has formed and a debut song happens, then I care.  Until then I don’t give a shit.”

Well for me I actually wrote a blog again on this, using Twice as an example.  Back when they were on the show Sixteen, I wrote this before the first episode had even aired, and the blog was based on nothing more than the 30 second teaser for each member, and that was it.  From that, I predicted the entire lineup, with one mistake, and that mistake was a girl from Sixmix who therefore wasn’t included at the end, but aside from that I picked all 9 members of Twice from the 10-member lineup that I had finalised it down to.  For me I find survival shows really mundane and predictable, because all you’ve got to do is figure out who is of a legal age to debut (although that kind of changed since I wrote that blog), who has the most experience, who has the most connection within the company be it MNet, JYP, who has been the longest trainee, so for instance if YG had done one for Blackpink I would have instantly known that Jennie was going to get in because she had been the longest-running trainee and the most promoted trainee.  It’s really boring, really predictable – whoever got the most screentime during that episode is obviously going to be the one who gets the most votes.  I criticised Show Me The Money, because YG sends his artists to Show Me The Money to prove that his artists are “real hip-hop” and “real swag” or whatever but it’s like “you mean to tell me that the idols from the company who have their own fucking judging panel on the show, who therefore get half the screentime of the show, and who get special favour from the judges… for example I’m pretty sure BI or one of the members from Ikon fucked up his lyrics on his audition but was actually allowed to start again?  If anybody who was just a normal person tried to start their audition again after they fucked up they would have just been kicked out by security, but obviously because he’s from Ikon he’s allowed to.  And you mean to tell me that it’s a surprise when they win or come second?  Pfft!”  But of course, I get fans pissed off at me when I point that out to them.

I remember the Busker Busker interview where the guys basically came out and said they were told right from the word go “look, these guys are going to win, not you!”  Last question: and it’s not really a question, but someone just wants you to talk about you fighting with Blinks (Blackpink fans) on Twitter.  So what’s going on there?

Well, I don’t even know what the actual cause of it was.  I’ve been very very critical of YG’s tactics in launching Blackpink, because I feel like the girls deserve much better than what they get from him, and it’s funny because the Blinks say the same things, but I guess the perspective that they have is very different to mine.

What do you think (the girls in Blackpink) don’t get?  I mean, everyone probably wants them to have a few more songs, but apart from that?

For example, (Blinks) take my criticisms of YG’s marketing and somehow seem to think that I’m criticising Blackpink personally.  Using one case – the fact that they released “TT” and “Playing With Fire” at the same time.  So JYP announced Twice’s comeback well in advance, gave plenty of notice, plenty of teasers, all that stuff, and as soon as he announced the actual date specifically, YG suddenly announces his comeback except it’s going to be several days later, which gave them an advantage on the music charts in the second week they went head-to-head.  Twice would obviously have the better advantage in the first week, but the next week they’d be seen as going head-to-head with each other and Blackpink would therefore have the advantage of therefore being the debut of that week, so they have more unique listeners, more people interested in seeing what new content had just been put out by the general public vs the general public would have already heard Twice’s song by now.  So YG was to me very clearly doing that to try and piggyback off JYP and Twice’s success so he could therefore make a rivalry between the two groups.  Twice had started being called “The Nation’s Girl Group” just at that time in 2016, so Blackpink were the new contenders for Nation’s Girl Group after defeating Twice on music shows, that kind of thing.  It was pretty obvious that was his plan, particularly on Inkigayo, the show he tends to have the most connections on, but the comeback for Twice was actually so successful – with TT, I was there in the country at that time, it was insane – that song smashed so fucking hard that even with the advantage Blackpink had that week, Twice still outsold them, and I don’t mean that in a “roasting” way, which people seem to take that as, and I’m not saying “Twice outsold your faves, haha”, it’s more like “if YG had launched Blackpink purely on the girls themselves instead of constantly trying to make rivalries with other groups”… it’s like he blames Blackpink for not winning against Twice when it was his own marketing strategy in the first place, and I get mad at that because I’m like “how is that their fault, you’re the one that put them head-to-head”!  People really do twist the words and my intent behind them, and that got a lot of people pissed off at me who were trying to say “you’re trying to make Blackpink and Twice hate each other!” when I’m like “no, I’m criticising YG for trying to make them hate each other!”  The girls themselves are friends!  They take pictures all the time together.  I think as people, Blackpink seem to be really nice people, and again it’s what you know vs the reality, but Yeri was mourning Jonghyun who apparently she was quite close to, and had to go to the Gayo music shows at the end of last year, there was footage of Blackpink going up and talking to her on the side of the stage and offering their condolences.  So they’re nice people, I’ve got nothing against them as people, I’m just very very critical of the way that YG markets them and especially against groups that I am fans of.  In the case of Twice, I’m a huge fan of Twice, so when he’s trying to create a rivalry off my favourite group, I’m not exactly going to be all that happy about it and I’m going to be critical of it, but people tend to take the criticism and twist it into the group, not the company.

Oh, and I can’t talk about Blinks hating me without mentioning this.  When YG had auditions in Sydney in 2012, and this was right around the time I was just getting into k-pop, I thought “sure, I’ll go along to this and see what all the fuss is about” and I mean there are not exactly all that many events in Australia that are held to do with k-pop, where I have ways of meeting other friends, learning about how the industry works, particularly at a time when I wasn’t particularly active on Twitter, and didn’t know that many people.  So I went along, not expecting to pass as a 177cm white person, in an industry that is obviously full of very tiny Korean girls, I’m not exactly the fit of a cohesive girl group.  So no, I was actually not expecting to pass, but the narrative has since become that I’m a bitter old hag who is upset that I got rejected in favour of Rose who passed that audition.  In reality, I admire her very much for the fact that she was able to pass, and not only pass, but survive an insanely intense training process that I would have had a snowflake’s chance in hell of surviving a day of let alone 5 years.

That probably about wraps it up!  Just one last question, from me: who’s taller, AustralianSana or Gfriend’s tallest member?

Sowon, she’s actually very tall.  I’d say we have probably the same height.  She’s listed at 172cm, that is very much a lie, I took photos of Gfriend in 2016 a couple of times, at one event I went to that was in Yeouinaru Hangang Park, they walked less than a metre away from me to get up to a performance.

Photo of Gfriend by AustralianSana. Click for full size.

Because I was a foreigner with a nice SLR camera they probably thought I was press and I’m not going to tell them otherwise if they’re letting me sit right up front to the stage!  She walked right past me and we were pretty much identical in height.

She wasn’t in heels?

No, not in heels.  I wasn’t either.  So we would have been in similar type shoes, she is definitely quite tall.  I had another friend who interviewed Gfriend and they took a photo together as well, he works as press and he went to Source back in 2015 when they were still a rookie group so it was quite easy to get that kind of access with them, and he took a photo with them and we were chatting about it one time as well, and he said pretty much the same thing, that she was the same height that I am.  So we’re pretty much equal height, I’m 177cm, she might be 178cm or 176cm but very very similar in height.

Thanks very much for your time!

No problem!

That’s all for this post!  If you would like to see AustralianSana & Kpopalypse discuss something in the next episode, you can submit a topic request via the form below, or if no form appears, you can click on the picture of Gfriend standing next to Mamamoo below to open the link to the request box as a separate webpage.  Stay safe, caonimas!

2 thoughts on “AustralianSana & Kpopalypse – Episode 2: Infinite sasaengs, “cancel culture”, Gfriend and more

  1. Great interview – you’re both intelligent and articulate, it’s lots of fun to read of your experiences in the (strange) world of kpop. And thanks for ending with that pic of Mamamoo and Gfriend, that was one of my favorite pix of two of the best groups, showing their true heights! 🙂

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