#KStreetSpeaks: On Idols, Fans, and Personal Space

Local fashion brand Penshoppe held a fancon (short for fan convention) for their global ambassadors Sandara Park and Nam Joohyuk last July 29 at the Mall of Asia Arena. The event was attended by thousands of fans—those who have been fans of Sandara pre-2NE1 days and after, and those who fell for Joohyuk primarily from the drama, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo. The highlight of the event was 200 lucky fans got to meet and greet, score a signed poster, and have a photo op with the two stars.

Unfortunately, not everything went well with the fancon. Photos by Facebook page KDrama is Lifeu showed scratch marks on Joohyuk’s arms (which was later clarified by Gia Allana that the scratches on Joohyuk’s arms were apparent prior to the fancon). Even worse, a screenshot by Saranghaeyo Oppa revealed that a fan hugged Joohyuk, who looked uncomfortable with the gesture.

These instances caused an uproar among netizens, as the whole event was streamed via Facebook Live. The news even reached Korean site Dispatch. The opinions were divided – several people criticized the fans in the meet and greet for invading Joohyuk’s personal space, while other fans came to the girls’ defense, justifying that these fans were only making the most of the opportunity to be near their idol.

From a cultural perspective, touch is very significant to Filipinos. It is at the center of our social connection and interaction. When we buy at a store, we touch and hold the item. When we are introduced to new people, we shake hands. When we meet friends, we hug them or do beso-beso. We even have over a hundred words for “touch” and “hold.” Organizers and brands who bring artists to their fans recognize this. We often get “hi-touch” events because they know Filipino fans will love and appreciate even just a second-long moment of touching their favorites’ hands.

…there is no acceptable explanation that would allow a single person to touch somebody without their consent.

But does this justify the actions done towards Nam Joohyuk? No, it does not. While this cultural background explains why we long for “touch,” it does not and will never rationalize inappropriate behavior. It is inexcusable, even with such cultural importance, to touch someone for touch’s sake even if it makes other people extremely uncomfortable.

While we tend to put idols on a pedestal, it is important to remember that they are people, first and foremost. Just like us, they tend to feel uncomfortable whenever someone touches or grabs them without consent. So just because you paid to watch their show or attend their fan meet, it does not give you the right to take advantage of the situation. Think about it – if you were in their situation, would you feel comfortable if someone touches you inappropriately?

It is embarrassing to the international Korean drama community, most especially to Nam Joohyuk. But there’s a lesson to learn from this upsetting news: there is no acceptable explanation that would allow a single person to touch somebody without their consent.

We hope that this incident serves as a lesson to all of us fans. Just because you have the opportunity to be in the same space as our idols does not mean you should hug or touch them without their consent. The last thing you want to happen is to lose the perks of having “hi-touch” events just because you got excited and couldn’t keep your hands to yourself.

Aria Ortega, Cheska De Ocampo, and Dan Gambe contributed to this article.

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