Date of Graduation

Spring 5-21-2021

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Asia Pacific Studies (MAPS)


College of Arts and Sciences


Asia Pacific Studies

First Advisor

Professor Brian Komei Dempster

Second Advisor

Professor Matthew Berry


This study investigates the cultural, economic, and spiritual meanings, as well as the goals of activities carried out by both the K-pop fandom (specifically fans of EXO and NCT) and Buddhist devotees in Thailand—and their considerable degree of overlap. While Thai Buddhism is revered, K-pop fandom is stigmatized as an extreme, problematic form of behavior. This research builds parallels between these activities as forms of faith, which are mostly shaped by the same economic structures, with money as a medium that allows spiritual connection and comfort for fans. Moreover, travel and pilgrimages are physical and spiritual journeys that exist for both religious devotees and K-pop fans. Through analysis of numerous secondary sources and use of participant observations onsite in Thailand, this study illustrates scholarly discourse and the real-life experiences of those involved in religious and fan activities. The findings from this research indicate that both Thai K-pop fandom and Buddhism bear a striking resemblance in their faith rituals, practices, and capitalist-oriented activities; through their process of participation, both fans and religious devotees gain happiness and spiritual nourishment. Exploring relevant connections, this work offers insightful explanations that link K-pop and Buddhist subcultural communities, so that we can better understand the complex functioning of Thai society and culture.