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Monday, January 18, 2010

[News] Fans turn into consumer activists

By Bae Ji-sook
Staff Reporter


Park Jin-young, president of JYP Entertainment, made an official statement on Sept. 17 to explain his stance regarding Park Jae-beom, the former leader of the uber-popular boy band 2PM. The briefing was an inevitable measure in the face of the aggressive activism from 2PM fans.

It was the band’s loyal fans – who have printed advertisements in newspapers and are threatening to boycott 2PM-related products and items – that pushed him to make a reluctant speech over Jae-beom, who left the band after negative comments he made about Korea four years ago were made public.

However, Park is about to make another big decision as unsatisfied fans are asking him to disclose the singer’s working contract.

The fans also continue to release newspaper advertisements calling for Jae-beom’s reinstatement, in which they allude to a potential boycott of TV and other programs involving 2PM until the music tycoon takes back the member.

The world of fandom is changing rapidly. Gone are the days when they were mere consumers of pop culture. They are now the largest influence in the field, able to “solve the problems on their own.”

This is a long way from the image of fans screaming or crying in front of their favorite stars’ residences.

“They are quite frank about what they want and know how to get it,” online showbiz critic Fiancee said.

“They have realized that they do have power over their stars. They make statements, hold protests and write appealing letters to reporters, industry insiders and others. They are becoming a ‘political power’ in a way,” she said.

A while ago, SM Entertainment, which represents the boy band Super Junior, planned to hire a Chinese member for the band to woo the Chinese market. Consequently, angry fans gathered in front of the headquarters every second Saturday to protest the decision.

The company later withdrew the announcement, saying they “respect the fans, who are the biggest assets to Super Junior.”

Fan clubs are now boycotting SM products because they canceled concerts at which TVXQ was scheduled to appear.

“This is our time to show SM that we are more than passive stance,” a fan said.

This is the case not only with the fans of singers.

When it was announced that the MBC cult hit “Tamnaneundoda” (Tamra, the Island) was wrapping up on Sept. 27, far earlier than the originally planned date of Oct. 11, fans held an online campaign to urge the station to withdraw the decision.

Kim Mi-kyeong, one of the cast members, said in an interview that it was the first time she had felt such intimacy with her fans. “The fans would bring snacks, try to encourage us and make every detail of the drama an issue so that the station could give it a second thought. I never imagined in my life that fans would act to influence a TV drama,” she said.

“This is a new wave of the consumer’s rights movement. They stand for the entertainer’s rights and their own rights against an offensive and cold capitalism,” Kim Seong-su, another culture critic, said.

But in some cases, the depth of the fans’ affection is becoming aggressive and offensive to others.

Fans of G-Dragon, the lead singer of Big Bang, bombarded the Web site of the MBC radio program “Bae Cheol-soo’s Music Camp,” and several others for raising suspicion over the plagiarism.

It was later revealed that his recording company was warned over the issue by Sony Korea.

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