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Sunday, January 05, 2020, 17:46
Fansumers rising as new trend through social media in S. Korea
By The Korea Herald/ANN
Sunday, January 05, 2020, 17:46 By The Korea Herald/ANN

This photo taken on May 18, 2017, shows shoppers in the popular Myeongdong shopping area of Seoul. (ED JONES / AFP)

SEOUL - In a group Kakaotalk where 300 of fans of Pengsoo - the costumed penguin character that has started to gain nationwide popularity - gathered, people showed anger when the character appeared at a promotion event for a movie on Dec 16.

Some of them insisted they have to send protest emails to the producing team at Educational Broadcasting System (EBS) and ask not to put Pengsoo on stage for a commercial purpose.

“We can’t stand Pengsoo’s image is consumed this way, appearing funny and miserable,” one of fans said in the group chatroom. “I am even considering asking for consultation from entertainment agencies regarding this issue.

Young generations have witnessed that people who express their opinions on social media and earn consent from others get a strong power so they tend to speak up their voice and and ask for right as consumers as well.

Choi Ji-hye, Researcher at the Consumer Trend Center, Seoul National University

“Fansumer” is a combination of a “fan” and “consumer” who actively participates in branding and producing subjects, such as brands and idol stars, as a fan. They have strong affection to the subjects and also speak up their opinions about marketing and how the subjects should be produced. 

The notion of Fansumer was first introduced by the bestseller, Trend 2020, written by Seoul National University’s Consumer Trend Center that professor Kim Ran-do heads. The consumption paradigm is now shifting from owning to “engagement”, Kim said in the book.

Experts say the background of the fansumer trend lies in the development of technology, particularly, social media.

“Fandom culture is nothing new, but fans’ engagement into producing or marketing characters, idols or products is getting stronger,” said Lee Taek-gwang, professor at Department of Global Communication at Kyunghee University. “This culture has stemmed from the development of one-person media such as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.”

The phenomenon of active engagement to what they are fond of is particularly strong among young generations especially those in Millennial generation and generation Z.  

Millennial generation refers to those who are born between 1980s and mid-1990s, while generation Z refers to those who were born after mid-1990s. For the latter one, they are also referred as “Phono Sapiens” as they grew up with using smartphones.

The role of fansumers especially stands out in the entertainment industry. When Mnet cable TV’s ProduceX101, a reality idol group survival show, became popular, people tried to gather money to form a boyband group named “BY9.”

Also Big Hit Entertainment that manages BTS decided to cancel the release of a new single made in a cooperation with Japanese Yasushi Akimono 2018 September due to the severe backlash from fans who insisted the producer was a right-winger.

“I would like to see my idol stars to behave well, so that they give a good influence to fans as much as we show affection to them,” said Lee Hyun-jin, 31-year-old BTS fan.

“I think many K-Pop fans are taking many actions on behalf of entertainment companies about what they miss or neglect,” said Park Jun-Seo, 20-year-old fan of K-pop. “I think they companies have to thank those fans.”

Choi Ji-hye, researcher at Seoul National University’s Consumer Trend Center, said fansumer has been an important trend in consumption culture in Korea. “Young generations have witnessed that people who express their opinions on social media and earn consent from others get a strong power so they tend to speak up their voice and and ask for right as consumers as well.”

“Companies will have to be aware of this culture when producing products, or idols, if opinions are not reflected, they could face problems.”


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