“Don’t wait for a special miracle,” Girls’ Generation sang on their 2007 breakout hit “Into The New World.” K-pop stans, the most zealous fans of the genre, are doing their part to help bring miraculous change right now. They deployed the power of the tweet and the force of their numbers to aggressively mobilize against white supremacists and interfere with police surveillance. K-pop fans weaponized their social media presence in support of Black Lives Matter amidst the nationwide protest which followed the killing of George Floyd. The unarmed black man died in police custody last week after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest.
The K-pop social media bombardment saw stans take over rightwing and pro-Donald Trump hashtags to drown out racist and offensive posts and criticism of the protests. K-pop fans radicalized on May 31 in response to a tweeted request by the Dallas police for people to submit videos of “illegal protest activity” to their iWatch Dallas app. The request promised whistleblowers “You can remain anonymous.” Fans of Korean pop music responded by asking everyone to download the iWatch app and “SEND ALL YOUR FANCAMS!!!” The barrage of short K-pop related content was intended to “MAKE THEIR JOBS AS HARD AS POSSIBLE!!! GET THEM FRUSTRATED!!! MAKE THEM TAKE DOWN THE APP,” tweeted @LatinaBtsEc.
K-pop stans didn’t care about anonymity. They were proud to contribute openly. Within minutes, the Dallas Police Department was flooded with “helpful” videos, gaming clips, anime GIFs, and memes of point dance moves and aegyo (supercute) poses. Within 24 hours, the police department tweeted, “Due to technical difficulties, iWatch Dallas app will be down temporarily.” K-pop fans replied to the Dallas Police Department tweet with more K-pop fan cams even after the app crashed. The stans also flooded police department requests for photos and videos of protestors “rioting or looting” in Kirkland, Washington, and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Fan culture is a hard line to break. Fans can create a hive mind mentality and know how the internet works. They can game an algorithm to break streaming records or inflict massive boycotts on music platforms. K-pop stans posted over six billion tweets last year, they have become one of the strongest forces on social media. K-pop fans were even cited as an international influence by the Chilean government.
Twitter will not allow posts that promote violence or attack people based on race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. It bars hateful imagery like the Nazi swastika. The company also diverts traffic which can incite hate. Following Floyd’s death, which was caught on video, hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackoutTuesday began trending on social media at a viral rate. They were immediately hit by anti-BLM hashtags like #WhiteLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter and #WhiteoutWednesday. By early Wednesday, #WhiteLivesMatter was the third-most trending hashtag in the U.S. Thanks to K-pop stans, these are now the best places to catch up on doings from Twice, EXO, GWSN, and Dreamcatcher.
“Police arrest that boy for stealing my heart #BlueLivesMatter,” a SuperM fancam @cheesejessicaaa tweeted along with a meme of rapper Lucas, from the South Korean boy group NCT, performing on stage. Some Twitter users posted photos of bottles of Wite Out liquid paper, others posted photos of all-white cars and furniture. K-pop fancam videos dominated Instagram with #WhiteLivesMatter and #whiteoutwednesday posts of girl group Twice and boyband NCT Dream videos. The barrage united rival K-pop factions, like EXO-Ls (who support the band EXO) and ARMY (who are fans of band BTS), Blackjacks (2NE1 fans) and Shawols (Shinee fans). By Wednesday, K-Pop posts overwhelmed the #WhiteLivesMatter hashtag.
“Kpop fans are from all different races, so we try to support each other,” @KananMehra summed up in a tweet. “When we found out that ‘White Lives Matter’ was trending, we came together to drown out all the bad things. I have never been so proud to be a K-pop fan.”
BTS endorsed fan efforts, tweeting, “We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together” in Korean and in English, according to Billboard. Band members HyunA, Rain, and Eric Nam posted a black square on their Instagram accounts. Tiger JK, Tiffany Young, Momoland, GOT 7’s Mark, and rappers Jay Park and pH-1 all took to social media to support the Black Lives Matter movement. The artists donated to organizations like George Floyd Memorial Fund. Jae of DAY6 shared details of his donation to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which arranges bail for protesters. Tiffany Young of Girls’ Generation posted links “on ways everyone can support” efforts after Black Out Tuesday on Instagram.
“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, formerly of 2NE1, said in an Instagram post, according to CNN. “Let’s send them love and support by caring, elevating black voices, educating ourselves, and bringing awareness to people around you.”
Because K-pop idols have begun speaking out against social injustice, stans feel their idols would approve of the social media protest movement. Some users also commandeered #AllLivesMatter, #MAGA, and #ExposeAntifa to drown out hateful and misleading messages with Hallyu beats.
The K-pop fans efforts have not gone unnoticed by major protest players. “Respect out to the Kpop Stans,” Anonymous tweeted. “LEGION.”