Are you a fan of any k-idols? But do you consider yourself on a normal level or on the verge of being obsessive? If you're the stalker type you probably fit the term Sasaeng (사생), meaning an obsessive fan of some k-idol. Sasaegs cause fear because they are even capable of putting their own lives and celebrity at risk.
In the expression Sasaeng comes from Korean pop culture and “sa” means private (from hanja 私) and “saeng” means life (from hanja 生), to refer to the obsession with artists to the point of invading their private lives. Let's see how these fans interfere negatively in the lives of South Korean artists.
What is a sasaeng capable of?
Sasaengs are also known as stalkers. They watch the k-idol to know their steps in order to pursue them. The sasaengs were at first just admirers of celebrities, but their love grew to the point where it went beyond the limits.
These groups go out of their way to have something that k-idol has used (even underwear and chewed gum!!!), put hidden cameras mainly in bedrooms and bathrooms (there are cases of them picking up feces and urine from artists), to have unique images of them in their normal days. Supposed fans furthermore spend their savings buying tickets to go wherever the artist is. And the worst thing is that most do not consider themselves sasaengs in the full sense of the word.
Many make it a business besides selling hidden camera footage they also trade information from cell phones they access illegally. So k-idol are constantly victims of embarrassment and fake news and this even leads them to severe depression symptoms and keep them away from the stage.
Even taxi drivers came in to contribute to the sasaengs. Taxi drivers are not fans, but they help with the acts to earn more money on top of so much fanaticism charging absurd values. They manage to make good money from it.
So in the end the sasaengs not only spend money to chase their idols, they also make money through everything they get from the artist, it's even worth a hair! Being sasaengs is almost a profession. Although auctions of artists' personal items are part of Western culture, what these fanatics do is a crime.
Let's say that anti-fans is a subcategory of sasaengs. They always accompany the k-idols, but in order to denigrate their image. They know everything about the artist's life, to use as weapons and spread fake news. They make fake profiles on social media to defame and criticize, and are capable of anything to disrupt the celebrity's life.
But the anti-fans are quite violent, capable of killing the artist. One example is what happened to Yunho, from TVXQ in 2006, he was a victim of anti-fans. He received orange juice from a supposed fan and, inside, it contained pieces of glass and glue, Yunho had to be hospitalized because he started vomiting blood afterwards. After that the idol started to be more cautious with gifts from fans.
Measures against sasaengs
To decrease the number of cases and have punishments to inhibit sasaengs, in the year 2011 a new clause was added to the Minor Offenses Act of South Korea to protect members of k-pop. Another measure was the development of a support center for singers to offer advice and help artists deal with the spotlight.
On July 16, 2021, SM Entertainment, the agency responsible for the bands EXO, NCT, aspace, SHINee, Red Velvet, took a stand on the matter and stated that measures are already being taken against sasaengs. The company said that even cyber attacks will be taken into account and strict measures will be taken.
Real cases of sasaengs in action
Unfortunately this is part of the k-idols reality. Despite the care and security, sasaengs appear at very unexpected times. I will mention some cases here.
In 2019 the boyband member BTS, Jungkook was broadcasting a live to at least 4.4 million people. He did this because during the broadcast when he got the call saying he was just checking if that was Jungkook's number. So the artist immediately said live that in cases like this he blocks the call and that it is common for him to receive calls from sasaengs.
Heechul and Leeteuk from Super Junior
In 2011 Leeteuk and Heechul were in a car when they started being chased by some cars with sasaengs. The artists tried to escape taking several routes, but unfortunately they were unable to lose their way and suffered an accident with 7 other cars. Nobody suffered serious injuries.
Girls Generation's Taeyeon
In the year 2011 during the presentation of Girls Generation a fan entered the stage and tried to kidnap Taeyeon. The fanatic tried to take her by pulling her wrists, and another member of the group, Sunny tried to stop it. Fortunately, sasaeng was unable to kidnap the group leader because of the swift action of the security team.
Shim Changmin of TVXQ
Shim Changmin is the main vocalist of the band and he received many calls from female fans, bothered by this he decided to change the number. Minutes later he receives a message stating that he has changed his number. He changed numbers one more time and got another fan message saying that changing numbers so many times is not good. Not to mention that the singer received photos of personal things that only had where he lived.
a sasaeng pushed Kai from the EXO band aiming to hurt and he ended up injuring his ankle and had to be taken away with the help of the other limbs. There was also a case in which a sasaeng entered the hotel room where former member Tao was staying and placed a camera in the bathroom to record him during his shower. The group is one of those that go through situations involving sasaengs the most.
Can sasaengs really be considered fans?