Online Fandom: Social Identity and Social Hierarchy of Hallyu Fans


  • Atiqah Abd-Rahim Universiti Malaysia Sarawak



Hallyu, online fandom, social identity, social hierarchy, virtual ethnography


Hallyu fans are people who are dedicated to popular culture in South Korea, including music, drama and film. This study focuses on fans of Korean pop music, which is known as K-pop. Developments in digital communication technology have given rise to media such as forums, websites, video channels, and fan sites that are consumed by K-pop fans. Fans participate in multiple fandoms because these websites are easily accessed by public audiences. However, problems arise when fans start to compete, using their knowledge to help validate their existence and to help the perception of authentic identities within fan communities. This paper is based on virtual ethnographic fieldwork that identified fans‘ constructions of their own identities and the building of a social hierarchy through various online practices. The research findings are based on four months of fieldwork with two online Hallyu fandoms; ELF (Ever Lasting Friends) and A.R.M.Y (Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth). The findings reveal that conflicts exist in certain fandoms which aid in defining fan identities and, at the same time, fans undertake positive socialising actions which contribute to the fandom itself. Interactions between fandoms also need to be recognised, since online fandoms can be seen as borderless.