Behind the Banning of Bars: What The Change in Chinese Fan Culture Means For K-Pop - Lifestyle Asia

Have you been following along the panic on Twitter about the changes in fan support but still confused? Here’s a quick explanation of what it all means, and what the changes might impact.

Following a spate of celebrity scandals involving a couple of major Chinese celebrities, China has announced a series of measures to crack down on what authorities are calling “irresponsible fan behavior.”

READ ALSO: It’s Official: With 23 Guinness World Records, BTS Is Now A Hall Of Famer

This includes the closure of “bars.” Hosted on social media site Weibo, bars are the terms used for fansites in China. It’s often been said that Chinese fans tend to be more loyal than Korean ones—you have to do something truly awful for your Chinese bar to close—so anyone with a big Chinese fanbase behind them is set for life.

Bars are where information on the idol is disseminated to fans, and where fandom planning takes place, like crowd-sourced fan-gifts from fans to idols: anything from designer handbags to birthday ads on the New York Times to ones plastered on Times Square was likely planned with intense fundraising from a bar.

The closure of bars in China seems like this part of fan culture will end. Just recently, the bar of BTS’ Jimin (@JIMINBAR_China) was accused by Weibo of illegal fundraising after it opened a crowdsourced fundraiser to customize a plane with their idol’s likeness.

In an article on the BBC, Weibo said it “firmly opposes such irrational star-chasing behavior and will deal with it seriously.”

The account was banned from posting for 60 days, while other groups were given shorter, 30-day bans. In response, bars have renamed themselves. One of the biggest, most active bars was for EXO’s Sehun, and they changed their name to OhSehunOrb. (However, they are still included in the 30-day ban).

Other than fan-gifts, one way this will affect the world of K-Pop is the crackdown on bulk buying. If your group is considered a million-seller in physical albums, it is highly likely most of the spending came from the Chinese bars.

The South China Morning Post reports that over 10 percent of all K-pop albums purchased this year on the Korean music chart Hanteo came from China. Fans are now limited to only buying one album per person.

@LISABar_CN for Blackpink’s Lisa (whose solo effort “Lalisa” was released today), apologized that their planned fandom support would not be at the same huge scale expected.

“We are sorry as we also had expectations for ourselves to do our best for Lisa, but we have to comply with the guidelines placed upon fans,” they wrote in a statement.

NCT 127, another group with an upcoming comeback, has four bars on the 30-day ban list.

Perhaps the only group who might escape from all of this unscathed is BTS: their worldwide support means they can offset the loss of mass-buying from Chinese fans. Their fans over the rest of the world can probably pick up the slack.

As for the rest, it will remain to be seen. As a long-time K-pop fan, I am hopeful this might change the culture that has risen up in recent years over the importance of sales and the obsession with numbers and streaming. Let’s make K-pop fun again.

Banner Photo from @lisa.blackpink on IG

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