Once just in the realm of sweet letters, the gifts of fans to idols have taken a turn.
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One of the strangest things I’ve ever heard of when I first dipped my toes in K-pop was hearing about fan gifts. For the uninitiated, fan gifts are, well, gifts from fans. This sounds simple enough until you learn what the gifts are.
Forget stuffed toys or letters filled to the brim with fans’ undying devotion—although, yes, they get these, too. They’re items with a monetary value that goes up to the high-thousands: from handbags to wristwatches to clothes to electronics to household furniture.
How do fans afford all of these things? For one, it’s usually an entire fan base pooling money together to buy gifts. In that fan base, some of the supporters might be rich themselves. It’s like tithing at a church. After all, sometimes being a fan of a K-pop idol is like being in a religion (or depending on who you speak to, a cult).
What is the point of all of this? The fans usually want to show appreciation for their bias. For some, it’s the pride of seeing their idols in something they worked hard to get for them (it’s also sometimes more special for the fans when it isn’t a big-ticket item, like the time Kai from EXO wore a Penshoppe cap from a Filipina EXO fan). For others, it’s the power of the flex: look how strong this fan base is, they managed to give their unnie a Birkin!
How the gift drop-off works is the gifts are just dropped off in front of the building. I don’t even know if they’re in contact with a company representative, but sometimes, bags and packages are just left in front, which creates a security risk: who’s to stop anyone from picking off that Chanel bag? What if some random underpaid intern decides to risk it all and run off with that diamond necklace? It’s not like there’s anyone from the fan base who can track.
Eventually, this creates a strange power imbalance between idols and their fans. It can contribute to the sense of ownership fans feel over their idols, stopping the idols from feeling like they can have a personal life. As idols get more established (read: richer) they stop accepting physical gifts When this happens, the fan bases turn to other sources: newspaper ads in the New York Times, land titles, airplane decorations (in case you’re wondering, this is one person: EXO’s maknae Sehun).
Here’s a selection of the best/craziest idol gifts:
Red Velvet’s Irene
The latest selection of fan gifts to go viral, Irene’s Chinese fan base worked . This set of gifts has everything: clothes, jewels, shoes, bags, electronics, and kitchen appliances. Just in case she wants to make cookies with her Kitchen Aid wearing a Graff bracelet and Jimmy Choos
Always caring towards his fans, V has continued wearing his fan gifts. A fan on twitter thanked him for still continuing to wear the Hermès coat she sent him.
All the Blackpink girls have devoted fans. If I could have, I would’ve written this entire article about them. However, in the interest of parity, I didn’t. While Jennie is already a Chanel ambassador, this did not stop her devoted Chinese fans from giving her more Chanel. Human Chanel, instead
Sometimes fans give non-material gifts, and they are no less impressive.
On the day Chanyeol enlisted for the Korean military, his Youtube Channel dropped this video of the group’s main rapper appreciating the efforts his fans went through in decorating a subway station in his honor. Readers, I cried.
In 2015, beloved soloist IU was gifted a forest. An actual, living breathing forest with 250 tress planted in her name, located in the Yeouido area (a large island located in Seoul’s Han River). The picture above is unfortunately not IU standing in her forest.
One of the best non-physical gifts idols can receive from their fans is an ad in New York City’s Time Square. This year, SNSD’s maknae Seohyun was very appreciative of hers. She wrote on Instagram: “Thank you so much for creating time square billboard for my birthday!! I’m very thankful from the bottom of my heart 💖 (Wish I was there to see it in person😭).”