Stories of fans spending thousands on K-pop merchandise, concert tickets and fanmeets are familiar to many. Fan groups even gather money together to buy lavish gifts to send to their idols, like luxury clothing and tech.
There's another side to it though, and that's fans who take on their idols' causes and give to charities. Most idols have at least one cause they publicly support, and that support can result in their entire fandom following through with donations and fundraising projects.
Take for example EXO's Sehun, who recently spent Children's Day volunteering at orphanage Sunduk Home. The organisation has said they receive ongoing help from EXO-Ls thanks to Sehun's open support. Similarly, EXO's leader Suho supports ALS charity Seungil Hope Foundation, posting pictures with their With Ice merch. THE items sell out with fans not only wanting to buy what the idol is wearing, but knowing they're doing it for a good cause.
There are similar stories, like Super Junior's ELFs donating 110 kgs of rice and 1106 ramen packs to the Salvation Army in honour of SuJu's 11th anniversary, and Block B fans raising money to build a well in Cambodia. The scale of donations made for birthdays and group anniversaries grows each year, from tree plantings to children's libraries. There's also support for the LGBTQ+ community with Jonghyun fans giving to a youth crisis centre for LGBT Korean youth.
More recently, BTS fans have tapped into their immense power online to raise money and awareness on various issues. This month, a hashtag raising money for UNICEF called #RoarForChange got trending thanks to ARMY. The campaign celebrating Star Wars Day asked people to retweet the hashtag, with each tweet adding $1 in support, up to a total of $1 million. BTS fans reached the $1 million goal within a few hours.
BTS have also been running a "Love Myself" campaign with UNICEF since November 2017. Within its first two months, UNICEF received 106 million won (approx AU$131,000) from all around the world. That's on top of the percentage of profits taken from sales of BTS' "Love Yourself: Her" album. Plus, their #LoveMyself selfie hashtag frequently trends with fans sharing images and the campaign message.
K-pop brings people together from around the world, and these fans hold immense power when it comes to both supporting idols and the causes they champion.
As idols utilise social media more to communicate with these massive fanbases, their fans are proving that they care about more than just merch with idols' faces on them, and putting their power to good use.
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