When you think of Kpop fans, what comes into your mind? Probably young Asian teenagers, mostly girls, right? But have you heard of ‘Uncle Fans?’ In fact, we can’t talk about fandom without these uncle fans. Just like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez appeal to a specific demographic – mostly high school students, uncle fans are just one category of Kpop fans.
若跟你提起韓流粉絲，大概也會想起一眾年輕人們，而且大多是女的，但你也許你沒聽過「大叔粉絲」。事實上，當我們談及粉絲也不得不提及他們，因為他們就像Justin Bieber和Selena Gomez那一群高中生粉絲一樣，是韓流中一個特殊存在的群體。
Uncle fans are defined as male Kpop fans who are in their young 30s to 60s and more. Popular stars among this specific category of fans are – Girls’ Generation, IU, and Miss A Suzy. These fans are normally employed, thus allowing them to have greater economic power when it comes to showing their affection for their idolized stars. For instance, a Korean man donated seven million won to an international non-governmental organization “World Vision” in honor of Girls’ Generation’s member Seohyeon’s birthday. Unsurprisingly, some of these uncle fans are even married and have a family.
‘I can just stare at them for days’ goes a popular quote that represents the attitudes of uncle fans. Some manias line up to get signatures at fan events all suited up after work. A group of uncle fans can gather up together to put a birthday celebration advertisement on daily papers or send flowers to their idol’s graduation ceremony. Back in 2011, uncle fans of Girls’ Generation sent out a print advertisement that said ‘We wish the best of luck for Girls’ Generation’s expansion on the Japanese market, and wish 2011 would be the year of them. Don’t be sick and don’t get hurt.’
However, criticisms are rising as some call them ‘creepy.’ Taking in account that uncle fans mostly go for young Kpop female stars, uncle fans are sometimes coined with the term ‘Lolita complex,’ which describes grown up men sexually attracted to young girls. One uncle fan of Girls Generation’s Yoona showed disappointment for people calling him a pervert because he held up a placard showing affection toward the female star at a TV show. ‘I am 36 years old, and I brought the placard because I thought it would be funny, and wanted to cheer for Girls’ Generation because they are pretty and cute,’ said the uncle fan surnamed Lee. ‘I need the hosts’ apology for calling me a ‘pervert’ and disgracing me by saying ‘What are you doing, think of your age.’’ Shortly after, the post went viral and the program’s producers eventually apologized to Lee. ‘I wish this could change the way people view uncle fans in their 30s,’ Lee said.
Similar types of these fans exist, as in Nuna Fans (older women usually in their 20s going for young teenage idol male stars) and Aunt Fans (older women in their 30s going for younger male idol stars). The reason why uncle fans face criticism the most while the rest remain untouched is due to the social taboo of talking about sex. Accordingly, the accompanying ideology deeply embedded in the Korean society would be looking at a crooked stance on older men worshipping younger girls. Thankfully, the society is changing and opening up more to uncle fans as they continue to pledge their fandom to be viewed in a healthy way – as Lee did.
TEXT: JISU J
CHINESE TRANSLATION: CHRIS Y
GRAPHICS: SUKI Y / HOKK FABRICA