Is this just a rumor or did fans really ask for military exemption?
On October 29th, rumors began to emerge that fans of SM Entertainment's EXO had started an online petition requesting that the Korean government exempt EXO from having to serve their mandatory military term. The result was an outpouring of anti-EXO sentiment within the Korean fan community. Even if the petition were started by one individual, which is the claim of fan group, EXO Planet, this individual was successful in reigniting the on-going debate regarding EXO fans.
EXO fans have repeatedly made headlines during 2013. Most fan groups receive media attention for their philanthropic works such as donating tons of rice, in the form of rice wreaths, or assisting with financial aid for the needy. In the case of EXO, most media attention has unfortunately been directed at the actions of saesang fans, whose treatment of the band itself and other fans, have become examples of some of the most excessive actions in K-Pop history. What is it that separates EXOs fans from fans of other groups?
In South Korea and Japan, official fan clubs are a key component of the K-Pop industry, helping to generate revenue for the artists and entertainment agencies. While the concept of fan clubs may sound juvenile or an antiquated part of 1960s marketing in America, they are an essential part of what keeps K-Pop thriving in a global economy where music has been undercut by illegal downloading and rising ticket costs for live performances. The phenomena is best chronicled in the Korean drama Reply 1997 in which one of the main characters helps to lead one of the largest fan clubs in Korea.
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As opposed to SM Entertainment label mates Super Junior, Girls Generation, SHINee, and TVXQ, EXO has yet to endorse an official fan club. Membership dues for official groups that average at 10,000 Korean won, allow official fan clubs to hire management or governing bodies. The lack of an official entity means there is no governing body for the fans. While this sounds insignificant, it is a key part of why EXO fans have made the headlines for the wrong reasons, this past year.
In May 2013, rumors which were substantiated by video posted online, showed international K-Pop fans who were attempting to see EXO perform on the popular program M! Countdown receive various forms of mistreatment. Fans who had traveled from countries as far away as Australia and the United States, began to post complaints on social media that they were denied entrance to M! Countdown in a situation that was precipitated by EXO fans. Officials at Mnet, the network which hosts M! Countdown disavowed knowledge of the incident.
Later in the summer, EXO fans were banned from attending live tapings of SBS' Inkigayo. Producers of Inkigayo stated that EXO fans had engaged in general mob behavior, such as using fan signs as weapons, chasing the group through the studio to the streets, and refusing to follow the rules assigned by SBS. The network also noted that the police were called on numerous occasions.
Subsequent to these activities, there was an increase in photos of fans engaging in self mutilation such as carving the name and logo on the band into their bodies. In September, fans disrupted the wedding ceremony of member Baekhyun's older brother, when what was intended as a crowd of support became almost riotous. Earlier this month, Tao expressed his anger and displeasure at saesang fans through his Weibo account.
A frustrated EXO Planet issues a response to the military exemption petition.
In response to the controversy surrounding the online petition, EXO Planet issued a statement renouncing the actions of whatever individuals began the petition. With 100,000 registered fans, EXO Planet is the closest thing to an official fan club for EXO. This statement is strongest from EXO Planet, in which they threaten legal action if the petitions and negative statements towards EXO continue. With increasing negative attention, will SM Entertainment designate an official club for EXO, helping to create more harmony with in the community? Are saesang fans true fans or are they nothing more than anti fans, in disguise?