Who knew that K-pop stans’ talent for Twitter spamming could be harnessed for good—or that it would be so fun to watch?
For years, fans of Korean pop groups like BTS have become famous (and, at times, infamous) for slathering social media with videos of their favorite artists. But over the past week, K-pop diehards have been putting their skills to another use: flooding police apps and harmful hashtags with videos of dancing pop stars to support Black Lives Matter protesters. They crashed a Dallas police cam app on Monday; they flooded the #WhiteLivesMatter hashtag on Wednesday; and on Friday they came for QAnon hashtags. During a wrenching week with few bright spots, these spammy acts of solidarity have proven both humorous and heartening.
“I was very surprised with the reactions,” Rania, a 20-year-old K-pop fan in Europe who helped swamp Dallas police’s iWatch app, told The Daily Beast in an email, “because Kpop stans on twitter don’t have a nice reputation.” (Sadly, the app is now back up and has flagged spam accounts, including Rania’s.)
“Since I don’t live in the USA and couldn’t do anything aside from signing petitions, spreading awareness about the movement and retweeting any new information or video, I thought that I might help on this one,” Rania wrote. “Kpop stans are known for posting fancams [fan-shot video clips of individual performers] anywhere, even on unrelated tweets (which annoys a lot of locals haha) But I’m glad this time, it was for a nice cause.” (For the uninitiated, “locals,” to the K-pop community, are, well, the uninitiated—AKA non-fans.)
For Klaudia, a 17-year-old fan who lives in Slovakia, K-pop bands’ messages are part of their appeal.
“I’ve loved music since I can remember and I’ve always tried to find artists that spread important messages through their music,” Klaudia told The Daily Beast in an email. When she first encountered BTS, she was enchanted by the music, videos, and choreography. “Later on I learned about their messages and meanings carefully crafted into their art,” Klaudia wrote, adding later, “Even [though the] K-pop industry has its dark sides, K-pop really showed me that music DOES transcend languages and races. It’s truly incredible that it’s spreading into the whole world.”
Klaudia was among those who flooded the #WhiteLivesMatter hashtag on Wednesday. At first, she was angry to see the tag trending—but when she opened the tag and saw nothing but fancams from her fellow stans, she felt relief and decided to join in: “I didn’t want people to click on the hashtag and see what the people who started the hashtag planned to spread.”
At it’s not just fans who are getting involved: K-pop artists themselves have been posting messages of solidarity with Black Lives Matter to social media. On Thursday BTS tweeted, “We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together. #BlackLivesMatter” Korean rapper CL posted her own message highlighting the debt K-pop and other art owes black artists.
“Artists, directors, writers, dancers, designers, producers, stylists in the K-POP industry are all inspired by black culture whether they acknowledge it or not,” CL wrote. “I would like to encourage all the K-Pop fans to give back and show their love and support for all that we have received from Black artists. I want to explain to all the K-Pop fans, fellow Asians, and non-Americans who feel like they have little or no connection to what’s happening that we are all connected at the end of the day. And don’t we, Asians living abroad, also face enough racism to the point where we are numb and sick of it? We must stand up together as one helping fight for justice.”
For many on social media, K-pop fans’ benevolent spamming this week has come as a bit of a surprise—but as Korean Herald pop culture reporter Hyunsu Yim pointed out Thursday, this is not K-pop fans’ first time using their broad global network for good.
“A lot of people seem to think that flooding the Dallas Police Department’s ‘snitch’ app targeting Black Lives Matter protests with fancams is the first time K-pop Twitter went political,” he wrote, “but it’s far from it.”
Yim cited a few examples: In 2018, K-pop fans spread awareness about a bus crash that killed two students in Bangladesh as protests erupted to call for safer roads; last winter the Chilean government blamed the protests that had erupted months before, in part, on them; and earlier this year they funded more than 35,000 school lunches for disadvantaged children in the United Kingdom.
For Rania, becoming a K-pop fan also sparked an interest in South Korean culture and politics—and although she can only do so much from afar, she has signed petitions for causes including the Burning Sun scandal, the Nth room case, and South Korea’s presidential scandal.
When asked about the praise K-pop fans have received for their recent spammings, in contrast to some of the ire they can occasionally inspire, Klaudia said she’s “glad people like and support this idea. I really do hope that people will start to see us in a better light instead of having only negative thoughts toward us.”
The K-pop community, she said, is “definitely the most powerful community I’ve ever been in. We can really change things if we want.”