I knew before coming to Korea that I definitely wanted to experience the K-Pop fandom culture here whether through attending a concert, fan-organized events, or even trying to attend a weekly music show. Upon my arrival in Korea, it has been such a fun experience seeing my favorite Korean celebrities everywhere I go – from the subway stations and convenience stores to giant billboards in busy streets. I wasn’t used to this back home in the U.S.
I had the opportunity to visit a fan-organized birthday cafe event for San from ATEEZ, a K-pop group that was formed in 2018 under KQ Entertainment. The group’s fan base is largely made up of fans from overseas but they are slowly growing in popularity in South Korea as well. I’ve been to these types of cupsleeve events before in the U.S but this one was definitely on a much larger scale.
Before even walking into the cafe, there was a banner hanging outside wishing the member a happy birthday. When you walk in, the cafe is covered in birthday decorations and pictures of the member whose birthday it is.
The cafe even had a limited-time special menu made up of drinks and macaroons customized to the member’s personality. For example, the theme of this specific cafe event was “Further Than Eternity,” where fans express their love for their idol as being “more than forever” and the idol is seen as their “blue ocean.” One of the many food and drinks pairings that they offered was a blue lemonade and a cat macaroon, San’s representative animal due to his facial features being similar to a cat’s.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I decided to pop into this cafe event, but I’m glad I went. Music is something that has always been important to me and I found K-Pop’s fan and artist connection to be really unique and interesting especially in comparison to the Western music world. In K-Pop, the idol and the fan have a much deeper connection, almost like a friendship. Whether this relationship is authentic or simply a business tactic, the impact these idols and their music have on their fans is undeniable.
At the cafe event, fans were able to write handwritten notes and letters to San as an expression of their gratitude or love for the idol and his music as well as fill out online surveys sharing what San and his group means to them.
Not knowing whether or not these letters and survey responses would actually reach him, I participated in these activities (although not very well due to my Korean being very limited), and turned them in to the 2 fans present who had organized the event. They gave me a scratch card for a chance to win a prize and I ended up winning a few stickers.
Overall, my experience was very positive and it was very interesting to experience an event like this in Korea. Seeing all the fans gather together to celebrate one of their favorite person’s birthday in their home country was a very unique experience that I am very happy to have participated in and I look forward to attending more events like this in the future, hopefully I get to experience a concert here in Korea as well!