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How K-pop fans honour their idols’ birthdays in a charitable manner

By now we all know that K-pop is a global phenomenon that has spread its influence across countries and cultures. The genre is spreading joy spanning geographies and the stars are setting new trends that redefine luxury fashion.

Nearly all famous K-pop groups and their members, famously called idols, have dedicated fanbases in several countries. One of the most famous ones — and perhaps the largest — is Adorable Representative MC for Youth, aka ARMY, which comprises fans of cult boy band BTS.

Along with being loyal to their idols, these fans of K-pop groups are known to undertake charitable activities in the name of their favourite musicians as well. It has been a trend in Korea and is now common in other parts of the world, too. K-pop fans have been in news raising money for the education of girls in developing economies to the protection of wildlife.

Other than rising to the occasion whenever required, fanbases also make donations on the birthday of the idol.

Here is a look at how K-pop fans help spread positivity and hope through charitable activities.

Women’s welfare on the minds of Red Velvet star Irene’s fans

Irene Red Velvet
Image credit: renebaebae/Instagram

As Irene turned 30 on 29 March 2021, her fans donated liberally to campaigns supporting women and the disabled.

More than US$ 2,000 were donated to a Korean non-profit known as KUMFA (Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association). The non-profit supports unwed mothers (single-parents) in raising their children without discrimination.

An Irene fanbase in China, named Irene Bar, donated around US$ 600 for what they described as “Pink Ribbon Caring for Woman Charity Program”. According to the fanbase, the money was used to help two breast cancer patients fund their post-surgery recovery. The group said that two programmes tailored for women’s health were launched as well.

In another fundraising event, fans ensured that Irene won a poll that donated US$ 440 in her name to a Korean organisation known as Miral Foundation. The organisation is known for helping disabled people integrate better with society through employment opportunities and also ensures that they are able to avail social welfare services.

Saving squirrels on BTS’s J-Hope’s birthday

J-Hope BTS
Image credit: bts_jhope/Instagram

BTS member J-Hope is known for donating money to various charities himself. On the occasion of his 27th birthday on 18 February this year, he donated US$ 136,000 to ChildFund Korea for child support in low-income families. And in May, on Korea’s children’s day, he again made a donation of US$ 89,000 for the welfare of children in Tanzania through ChildFund Korea.

Following in their idol’s footsteps, his fans have also raised money for environmental causes such as saving endangered Scottish squirrels, as part of his call for birthday donations instead of gifts.

For his 25th birthday in 2019, a British university student raised more than US$ 750 and donated the amount to the wildlife group Saving Scottish Red Squirrels. The amount was enough for the adoption of 37 red squirrels, which was a fourth of the total adoptions the charity recorded the year before.

According to BBC, Lisa Ireland, the student who raised the money, said that the BTS member is “likened to a squirrel because he has cheeks that pop out when he eats.”

At the time, J-Hope had himself donated to ChildFund Korea for the upkeep of his former high school in Gwangju.

Global charity on BTS’s Jungkook’s birthday

Jungkook K-pop fans
Image credit: bts.jungkook/Instagram

Ahead of Jungkook’s birthday on 1 September this year, his fanbases around the world began donating to charities and raising funds for causes. Among them were seven national charity events in China organised by his Chinese fans.

Donations were made to charitable institutions in Pakistan, the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam besides humanitarian and relief organisations working in Afghanistan and Haiti.

Jungkook Japan, a Japanese fanbase, announced that it will donate around US$ 4,000 to a certified Japanese NGO, Kamonohashi project, to fight human trafficking in India.

From mangrove conservation and protection of whales to Doctors Without Borders and Peruvian Cancer Foundation, fans of Jungkook donated whatever they could to celebrate the birthday of the youngest BTS singer.

You can see the entire thread of this year’s charitable activities around Jungkook’s birthday here.

Additional donations to ongoing crises

Though many charitable donations that fans make on their idol’s birthdays are one-time donations to specific organisations, many K-pop fans put their contributions towards ongoing crises. From the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement’s fight for racial equality, K-pop fans have expanded from donating just on their favourite celebrities’ birthdays to continuously contributing to larger causes.

Masks for Kim Jaejoong’s hometown amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Kim Jaejoong K-pop fans
Image credit: C.Hsuan_Photography – DSC_5936/Wikimedia Commons

In July 2020, Chinese fans of JYJ’s Kim Jaejoong donated 10,000 masks and other items during the pandemic to the singer’s hometown Gongju in South Korea. The fans reportedly said that they were touched by Kim and his Korean fans’ support to China with donations of masks in the early stages of COVID-19.

Besides masks, the Chinese fans also donated 10 automatic foam hand washers, 10 infrared thermometers and 2000 copies of Kim’s album Aeyo.

In a post on Chinese social media Weibo, Kim thanked the fans saying: “You guys are also thinking about my hometown in the distance (from far away), Chinese Fans, I’m very moved. The population of Gongju City is not very large. The masks you sent will definitely help us a lot. Thank you again Chinese fans, you guys sent us a better tomorrow!”

A few years ago, in 2016, his Korean fans had donated an entire library to the First Division of the Korean Army in the name of the K-pop idol. The library contained 500 books besides CDs and DVDs.

And four years before that, Kim’s fans donated around US$ 10,000 under a campaign to provide better meals to Korean children in schools. According to the campaign, meals provided by the government were overpriced.

India COVID-19 relief

India Covid
Credit: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP

India went through a terrible phase during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. According to the Indian media, there was a shortage of oxygen cylinders as well as beds in hospitals. Many influential personalities, including journalists, politicians and celebrities, took to Twitter to coordinate efforts and respond to calls for immediate medical help.

At the same time, there were thousands who donated to charities working round the clock to help people in need. BTS’ fandom, famous as ARMY, also contributed generously. Its Indian fanbase organised a fundraiser and raised over Rs 20 lakh in 24 hours. The funds were disbursed to various NGOs working to help people during the crisis.

When informed of the act during a television interview, BTS’ leader RM said, “Thank you for the beautiful ARMYs in India. We miss (you) and we hope that we could be there in front of you as fast as possible. Let us stay strong in these challenging times. Our prayers go to everyone currently fighting against COVID-19 and we hope to see you soon and safe.”

Philippines typhoon

Philippines typhoon
Credit: Handout / Philippine Coast Guard / AFP

Throughout 2020, K-pop fan clubs in the Philippines coordinated their efforts to provide succour to people affected by the pandemic and natural disasters such as multiple typhoons that hit the nation. From time to time, they also led charitable drives to support local communities facing economic hardships.

According to Rappler, a fan group of K-pop star Bang Yedam, the main vocalist of the boy group Treasure, was inspired by Yedam himself to organise a fundraiser to help people affected by the typhoon. The group was able to raise around US$ 700 which was donated for victims in some of the worst affected provinces.

Fan clubs of Super Junior and SHINee joined hands with Neo Culture Technology (NCT) Philippines to support both fans affected by a typhoon as well as relief organisations with cash and medical supplies.

BLACKPINK’s local fan club FILO BLINKS PH raised typhoon relief money by holding a bidding campaign with their merchandise and limited edition collections.

ARMY Bayanihan, a BTS fan group in the country, organised multiple campaigns for humanitarian causes. They have supported drivers who lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic.

On Jimin’s birthday, they also donated food packets to old age homes by buying tonnes of produce from local farmers. They supported victims of the fire in Tondo as well.

Black Lives Matter (BLM)

BLM K-pop fans
Credit: Ariana Drehsler/AFP

In June 2020, BTS and Big Hit Entertainment (now known as Big Hit Music), which manages the band, together donated US$ 1 million to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Their support for social justice, equal rights cause encouraged fans to match the donation.

Thus, an online campaign was launched under the hashtag #MatchAMillion. Within 24 hours of the launch of the campaign, fans of the groups raised more than US$ 1 million. In its report, Reuters said that industry experts believe that the scale of the campaign and speed may be unprecedented.

Main and Featured Image: Courtesy Ed Jones/ AFP