Date of Graduation

Spring 5-18-2018

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

John Nelson


Literature surrounding K-Pop is mostly focused on the reactionary, participatory, promotional, consumer and identity-forming roles of the Korean-Pop fandom. However, this research sheds a light on the dark side of the K-Pop fandom and the structures that sustain it: namely toxic practices and values. The study determines what practices and beliefs are at the core of competitive performativity and subsequently toxic fan conduct among international Korean-Pop fans and whether fans engage in reflexivity regarding these practices. To address this gap, this study incorporates a multi-methods approach, including CDA analysis, online corpus analysis, qualitative and quantitative data. The results reveal that competitive performativity among international K-Pop fans (1) reinforces loyalty towards and promotes chosen idols and fandom (2) combats non-/fans conceptions of their fandom/idols and (3) is a performance and simultaneously reflexive act (through self-policing) as they negotiate their “good, authentic” fan identity, given the belief that the idol, fandom, and company they support reflects on their own values, morals, image, and lifestyle.

The most loyal K-Pop fans are truly an invaluable asset for these idols given the fans’ intense willingness to support their music and defend their positive image. On the other hand, the most loyal K-Pop fans can also be a problem for an idol or fandom’s public persona especially when this support warps into toxic competitiveness. Fortunately, for the idols, fans, and the global community, fans have banded together and proven they are capable of not only enacting change in the K-Pop realm but of also making a positive impact in the world.

Keywords: Korean pop culture, fandom, reflexivity, competitive performativity, identity