Sasaeng Stalkers (Part 3): The crazy lengths one S’porean K-pop fan goes to

Korean fans queue from 5 am for a chance to see B2st (Photo courtesy of embracingyourkoreanseoul)Korean fans queue from 5 am for a chance to see B2st (Photo courtesy of embracingyourkoreanseoul)

Correction:  Jung Yunho is from TVXQ, not JYJ.

For some Singapore sasaeng frustrated by the few days they get to spend chasing their idols, the next best thing is joining their Korean counterparts in Seoul for a week of non-stop stalking.

Singaporean sasaeng fan Emily Liew, 18, estimates she has spent at least S$10,000 of her savings in the past year on her favourite Korean stars JYJ.

The polytechnic student flew to Seoul, Korea, thrice in 2011 to stalk JYJ, whom she calls her 'oppas'  (older brothers).

"I just want to be close to them all the time. I don't feel like eating, sleeping, or studying," said Emily, who admitted that she skips classes to stay at home, trawling the Internet for news of her idols or writing JYJ fan-fiction.

She shared with Yahoo! Singapore her seven-day stalking schedule each time she is in Seoul.

Queuing in the cold at 4am

Top on the list of Emily's priorities when she is in Seoul is getting into one of her favourite artistes' music shows or recordings.

The most popular of these shows is SBS's Inkigayo music show, which frequently sees the likes of mega-idols Super Junior, 2NE1, B2st, IU, Kara, and SHINee. It is also the debut platform for most new K-pop groups.

To get into the Sunday recording of Inkigayo, Emily wakes up at 2 am to get ready in order to reach the SBS building in Gangseo-gu, Seoul, by 4 am.

There, she will queue along with hundreds of other fans for about seven hours for a space on The List, or "myeong dan", that will allow her to watch the live recording.

"In the summer, it's okay, but last year when I went during winter-time, it was below zero degrees and I couldn't leave the queue to go to the toilet or buy food," said Emily.

"I thought I was going to faint but I held it in for four hours until the person in charge wrote a queue number on my wrist, guaranteeing me a space."

According to her, some sasaeng fans who are there alone even resort to bringing along plastic containers so they do not need to leave the line if nature calls, and she has seen many faint in the summer heat because they refuse to buy drinks to rehydrate.

Inkigayo is so popular that foreigners who do not have fan club memberships often have a zero per cent chance of getting into the show.  Becoming a member requires you to have a Korean address and identity card number -- an obstacle Emily overcame by forking out S$400 to a Korean girl she met online to help her register.

Sasaeng taxis -- the ride of a lifetime?

Emily is blase about whipping out hundreds of dollars at a time to pursue her idols, despite spending almost all the money she earns part-time as a tutor on what she calls her "passion".

"If men can spend thousands pursuing beautiful women with expensive bags and flowers, what's wrong with what I do? I earn my own money, I spend it the way I like," she said.

The bulk of the $10,000 she has spent on her two trips to Seoul in 2011 have been on sasaeng taxis, which charge up to US$500 for 9 hours.

"I know they are ripping me off, but how else can I keep up with my idols? I can't drive in Korea, and public transport is out of the question -- these taxis know where all the management companies, favourite eateries, and hangouts of the stars are," said Emily.

She recalled a high-speed chase last June, when the sasaeng taxi she was in raced after an idol's van at 200 km/h, beat three red lights, and made several illegal U-turns before the idol van stopped and the manager came over to their car, so angry that he nearly smashed the taxi window.

"He started shouting and punching the glass, threatening to call the police. He even took photos of us with his handphone camera. I felt kind of guilty," she said.

Scuffles with Korean sasaeng fans

According to Emily and her fellow Singaporean fan Hui Yi, fights breaking out between Korean sasaeng fans and foreign fans are common, because K-pop idols tend to favour the latter group.

"Stars like TVXQ, JYJ, Super Junior all prefer foreign fans more because we're not as crazy, or rather, they don't see us that often. So they will stop and give us aegyo but ignore the local fans," explained Emily.

K-pop idol managers' distaste for local sasaeng fans are well-known. Korean media reports revealed that they have slapped, kicked, punched, and even sprayed insecticide on over-zealous sasaeng fans to keep them at bay.

B2st's YoSeob rewarding fans with a typical "aeygo" pose (Photo courtesy of Ningin.com)B2st's YoSeob rewarding fans with a typical "aeygo" pose (Photo courtesy of Ningin.com)

"Aegyo" is a Korean term used to describe the cute waves, smiles, and winks that K-pop idols reward eagerly waiting fans with and are enough to drive the average Korean sasaeng green with envy.

According to Emily and Hui Yi,  bullying from Korean sasaeng ranges from pushing and shoving foreign fans in queues to deliberately feeding them wrong information and even, in Hui Yi's case, slapping her and stealing her wallet.

"We were waiting for JYJ outside their management building during the winter-time last year with a group of about 30 Korean sasaeng. When the oppas came out, their manager shoved all the Korean girls away but allowed them to shake hands with us," said Hui Yi, who is a sales assistant.

One of the Korean sasaeng fans was so upset at the difference in treatment that she slapped Hui Yi and made a grab for her wallet while other members of the sasaeng gang pinned her down.

"I could understand a bit of what she was saying, lots of bad words, calling me a b**ch," said Hui Yi. "I was scared, but it was worth it."

Singaporean sasaeng vs Korean sasaengs ..

Emily admits that she can be as persistent as Korean sasaeng in pursuing her idols, but insists that she would never resort to physical violence or invading their privacy to get close to them.

Yahoo! Singapore reported in Part 1 of the Sasaeng Stalker series that Korean fans were poisoning idols, sexually assaulting them, and even poisoning them to get their attention.

She said that the most extreme stalking she has done was following JYJ 24/7 via taxi, camping out and sleeping at convenience stores to avoid security from shooing her and fellow foreign fans out of the way.

Besides spending hundreds of dollars buying her idols' favourite food in the hopes that she will get to pass it to them, Emily has penned hundreds of letters to JYJ members -- but has never had a chance to give it to them personally.

"(TVXQ)'s Yunho oppa loves pork rib soup, or galbitang, so I buy takeaway containers of the soup. If it gets cold, I throw it away and buy another one -- I wouldn't want to give him cold soup," said Emily.

On one occasion, Emily had discarded eight unconsumed containers of soup by the time her idols had appeared. Even then, she was unable to get close enough to pass them the food -- food that their manager would have likely rejected.

Hui Yi, however, felt that the only reason why Singaporean sasaeng fans keep their behaviour in check was because they only get to see their idols once or twice a year during their concerts or fan meets.

"If B2st lived and trained in Singapore, I'm pretty sure that I would stalk them 24/7.  I am already paying good money to fly all the way to Korea to do that," said Hui Yi.

"Singaporean fans here are already hiring sasaeng vans and paying thousands of dollars to see their idols when they perform in other countries. Can you imagine if they have access to them all the time?"

What do you think? Has the sasaeng fever spread to our shores?

Read Part 1 of 'Sasaeng Stalkers' here

Read Part 2 of 'Sasaeng Stalkers' here

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