A “stan” is a die-hard fan. And Korean Pop has plenty of them.
https://youtu.be/cyr_OkYkJbEK-pop stans are now proving that they also make effective activists. In recent weeks, teenagers on TikTok and Instagram, many heeding calls by their favorite K-pop stars, have engaged in acts of coordinated protest. From foiling a political rally, to crashing a police mobile app, they have proven the breadth of their power. And as K-pop stars have made clear their support for Black Lives Matter, their stans have rallied behind other social justice causes. Let’s take a look at some of their impressive activist accomplishments from the last week.
Tanking the Tulsa Trump Rally
The most recent display of civil action occurred in the lead-up to Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa. President Trump’s decision to hold a rally in a city with such an inglorious history of violence against black people enraged many Americans. It also caused widespread health concerns, as experts warned that a massive gathering could become a coronavirus hotbed. In an effort to throw off the event planning, teenage K-pop stans, all users of TikTok, reserved tickets en mass with no intention of showing up.
In the days before the event, Trump bragged that he expected about one million people at the rally. Because of the projected turn-out, the campaign had even planned for a separate speech to take place outside the venue, which only contained 19,000 seats.
But the overflow section was hardly necessary. Only 6,200 people showed up to the rally, and the outdoor event was canceled. And while we can’t calculate just how responsible the internet teenagers were at foiling the event, their efforts definitely made it hard for the Trump campaign to anticipate turnout. As a result, the campaign was humiliated when far fewer supporters showed up than they had optimistically projected.
Still, Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale claimed that the low attendance was due to the “fake news media” telling people to stay home to avoid COVID-19. During his speech, Trump insinuated that many of his supporters couldn’t enter the arena because of the BLM protesters outside. There is no evidence to back the claim.
Ultimately, what the Trump campaign advertised as a great comeback to the campaign trail turned out to be an embarrassment. But for the teenage, K-pop superfans who had engaged in a little civil disobedience, the low turnout only validated their efforts.
Crashing the Dallas PD App
The Police Department in Dallas, Texas had created an app for people to send in videos of “illegal activity” from within racial justice protests. However, after coordinating over Twitter, K-pop stans started flooding iWatch Dallas with videos of popular K-pop artists. Many of the self-proclaimed stans also started to write one-star reviews of the app on the App Store. Many of the comments on the reviews read “Black Lives Matter” and “ACAB,” which stands for “All Police Are Bastards.”
One day after the launch, Dallas PD announced that “due to technical difficulties, iWatch Dallas app will be down temporarily.” It’s unclear whether the amount of posts crashed the app or if the flood just made it extremely difficult to use. Either way, the fans again showed that swift, coordinated action can even disrupt a law enforcement agency.
Last Tuesday, #BlackOutTuesday began trending. It urged people to post a plain black square on social media as a virtual moment of silence in support of BLM. The next day, opponents of the civil rights movement planned a #WhiteOutWednesday. The tag was meant to be a virtual counter-protest, but K-pop stans quickly adjusted. They inundated the internet with videos of their favorite Korean artists, all under the hashtag #WhiteOutWednesday.
By posting thousands of pictures and videos, K-pop fans completely destroyed the intention of the tag. Now, when searching for the tag on Instagram, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single post that actually references All Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter. Instead, images of K-pop stars like BTS, BLACKPINK, Stray Kids, and Exo dominate the space.
Fundraising for BLM
The K-pop machine is not just touting support for racial justice. It’s doling out the cash, too. BTS, K-pop’s most beloved boyband, donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter. In the following days, their allegiant fan base also organized a fund drive, raising another $1 million for racial justice causes.
“We stand against racial discrimination,” the boyband posted to Twitter. “We condemn violence. You, I and we all [sic] have the right to be respected. We will stand together.”
As these acts of civil disobedience have shown, you should never underestimate youth. The power of social media has enabled pop musicians and everyday teenagers alike. This is what activism looks like in the twenty-first century. It is a lesson for others who want to make a mark, who want to disrupt.