Agnes He, a university student in China’s southeastern Jiangsu province, said she believed it could help curb fan behavior that has gone too far. But she also worried if she could still buy albums at a discounted price through group buys organized by the fan accounts.
Daily Business Brief
“I’m very sensible when I’m chasing stars,” Ms. He said in a phone interview on Monday, adding that she saw pop idols as positive and energizing influences. “It’s a personal freedom. Just because I like Korean pop idols doesn’t mean I’m not patriotic.”
K-pop fans around the world are known for their organizational prowess, with plenty of ingenious billboards, giant LED screens and public transit vehicles to show their support ahead of an album release or a favorite band member’s birthday. Some have turned to political activism, and others have been credited with raising expectations for a rally in Oklahoma for Donald J. Trump, then US president, by reserving tickets they had no intention of using.
But the online armies of Korean pop music fans are running into President Xi Jinping’s sweeping agenda to clean up aspects of China’s entertainment industry. China’s Cyberspace Administration banned the ranking of celebrities by popularity. A regulator also accused an actress, Zheng Shuang, of tax evasion, fined her more than $46 million and ordered broadcasters to stop displaying content in which she had appeared.
BTS ran into conflict with Chinese patriotic sentiment last year when its leader, Kim Nam-joon, who performs under the stage name RM (formerly Rap Monster), made a seemingly harmless comment about the shared suffering of Americans and Koreans at a ceremony to mark the commemoration of the Korean War.
Chinese internet users erupted in anger, wondering why he had not also acknowledged the sacrifices of the Chinese soldiers who had fought on the side of North Korea. To avoid a nationalistic backlash, multinational brands deleted references of their partnership with BTS from their Chinese websites and social media accounts.
This week, Chinese internet users celebrated and criticized the suspension of the K-pop fan accounts. Some saw it as a necessary balm against idol worship and excessive celebrity spending, even calling BTS an “anti-Chinese group” and Korean pop music a form of “cultural invasion.”