Meet South Africa’s K-Pop Fans

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It shouldn’t surprise you that there is a growing K-pop scene in South Africa. Even though K-pop has only been on the western radar for the past couple of years, South African fans have been fans since day one. SHAAZIA EBRAHIM and FATIMA MOOSA spoke to SA K-pop fans about all the weird reactions they get.

Tina Makombe (20), Student, Pretoria

K-pop fan since: 2010
Stans: SHINee, Big Bang, F(x), Girls Generation, Pentagon, ATEEZ, SEVENTEEN, ONEUS
K-pop introduction: YouTube

In primary school and high school people were like, ‘Dude what the heck?’ People were shocked that I was into K-pop. Getting into varsity, it’s a lot better. There’s a bigger fan base. My brother, we are one year apart in age, says, ‘ugh Tina and her little Korean boys’. But I feel like K-pop now is more accommodating to the western world. For example, I showed my friend a Seventeen video. She said, ‘Oh I like these guys, they dance so well’. I showed a few other people in my residence K-pop and I wouldn’t say they’re fans but I changed their minds in a positive way. Their visuals aren’t as weird and different to how Shinee was then in their Ring Ding Dong video, for example. I know there are a lot of K-pop fans in South Africa because of my university group and the groups on Facebook, but in my day-to-day I don’t meet many.

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Deborah Schultz (41), Teacher/writer, Cape Town

Kpop fan since: 2005
Stans: Big Bang, EXO, FTIsland, CNBlue, BTS, NU’EST, WINNER, iKON, F(x), BLACKPINK, Red Velvet, MAMAMOO
K-pop introduction: introduced by Chinese friends

Most people are like, ‘What’s K-pop?’ Then I have to explain and say, ‘It’s a genre of music,’ then it’s like, ‘You don’t understand the language’. That’s got nothing to do with listening to music. A lot of people tell me I’m too old for K-pop and say I should have a more mature taste in music. I ask them is certain music only for kids and other music only old people? I can’t say I’ve converted friends to K-pop but they understand the appeal. Most of my friends who listen to K-pop aren’t avid listeners but if they like a group they’ll go onto YouTube or download the album. Most of the people I’ve met who are into K-pop are the younger generation. I haven’t really met K-pop fans in the country who are around my age. I think there is a lot more work that needs to be done to make K-pop more mainstream. Even though the younger generation loves fourth generation groups, when you start like K-pop as a whole and not just the groups then you enjoy K-pop and other groups as well. That will make it grow as well. I just think we do have more K-pop fans than we know in South Africa.

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Lemuel Masilela (23), Lab Technician, Johannesburg

K-pop fan since: 2013
Stans: Girls Generation, Red Velvet, Monsta X, Dreamcatcher, LOONA, Pink Fantasy
K-pop introduction: YouTube

I get a varied amount of reactions but generally, among by my friends who don’t listen to K-pop, it’s not that positive. They find it quirky, in a sense. My friends used to think it was a kind of fetish. I mean there are amazingly good looking people in K-pop but it’s the sound that I’m interested in. When I was properly into K-pop, I must have been about 18 at the time, I told a friend of mine who I’ve known for years that I loved it. He said, ‘That’s cool’. About two weeks later, he said, ‘There’s someone I want to introduce to’. It was this Asian woman from Korea. It was weird because my friend automatically assumed this was the kind of people I was interested in. The most awkward thing was that for some reason my friend thought that I spoke Korean, and that girl barely spoke any English. I was like, ‘Okay this is not awkward at all’. She and I are still very good friends now, though. I feel like even if one artist came here, the way SHINee Key went to Ethiopia,  South Africans would feel like this was something worth looking into.

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Tania Schlebusch (42), Mom/Caterer, Randfontein

K-pop fan since: 2017
Stans: Pentagon, Shinee, BTS, GOT7, EXO, Golden Child, Seventeen
K-pop journey: Tania’s daughter showed her BTS videos

I totally flood my Facebook with all the videos and all the debuts. A lot of people have actually unfriended me. I’ve gotten so many inboxes of people saying, ‘Listen, what’s going on on your wall?’ I just say, ‘Well it’s my wall, you’re welcome to unfriend me. Bye.’ I grew up in the Free State, it’s very Afrikaans and people are very one-track minded. People say, ‘If you can’t understand the language, why do you listen to it?’ You don’t listen to music because of the language. But there are lots of K-pop fans in South Africa. We went to the K-pop festival in Pretoria we were amazed at the amount of people there were. I think K-pop is great because of the content. You go to their everyday lives with them. With western artists, you don’t really see that. It’s just the glamour. I wish K-Con could be held in South Africa.

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Wisaal Charles (18), Student, Cape Town

K-pop fan since: 2016
Stans: BTS, Monsta X
K-pop introduction: Cousins showed her K-pop videos in 2012, became a fan after watching BTS in 2016

Most of my friends are kind of used to how I love K-pop by now because I am always talking about it. My cousins on my dad’s side are actually K-pop fans so it doesn’t seem weird. My cousins on my mom’s side do find it a little weird but they’re kind of used to it because I’m always talking about it whenever we are with each other. With my parents, they find it weird if I randomly break out into singing a Korean song. K-pop is actually growing quite a bit here because in 2017 I attended the Korean culture day for the first time, which happens annually in Cape Town. There were loads and loads of people there. I went to the one last year and it increased quite exponentially so I think it is definitely growing. It’s really cool to see how everyone is getting into it because it used to be very underrated here in Cape Town.

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Voxes edited for length, brevity and clarity

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

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