South Korean entertainment’s new force: middle-aged women 2023
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South Korean entertainment’s new force: middle-aged women 2023

On March 15, purple-clad supporters packed Sejong Center for the Performing Arts near Gwanghwamun, downtown Seoul. Some donned purple hats, scarves, brooches, or outfits to honor their favorite artist.

These fans reminded me of BTS’ Army. Their age made these supporters stand out.

The 2022 BTS Army Census found that 30.3 percent were under 18, 53.63 percent were 18–29, 9.31 percent were 30–39, and 6.75 percent were 40 or older.

Aristra, supporters of 2020 TV Chosun Mr Trot star Kim Ho-joong, wore purple that day.

The first classical music concert of the trot singer, who was classically educated, occurred at the Sejong Centre. Fans enthusiastically queued up to buy last-minute concert tickets.

“I lived near Jamsil (where large concerts are held). “When I saw young people flooding in on rented buses from all over the country, I felt sorry for their parents,” Ms Choi Young-sil, a 2020 Mr. Kim enthusiast, told The Korea Herald. “Little did I know then that I would be traveling on a rental bus to follow my favorite singer’s concerts around the country.”

Ms Choi always enjoyed music, but Mr Kim made her a passionate devotee in her late 60s.

She attended practically all of Mr. Kim’s concerts across the country and visited areas he frequented, but she was too late to book a cruise, which cost US$2,000 to US$3,000 (S$2,687 to S$4,030) and sold out rapidly.

On June 5, 3,000 fans departed Pohang on a seven-day cruise to Japan and Taiwan.

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His life and songs inspire. Ms Choi said he energizes many people.

After “Winter Sonata” aired in 2003, Japanese women in their 40s, 50s, and older supported Korean star Bae Yong-joon, who was in her late 40s.

She believed the “Yonsama (Bae’s nickname in Japan)” phenomenon, which brought many Japanese visitors to Korea, was fascinating but nothing more.

These middle-aged admirers support their celebrities like K-pop fans.

Like K-pop fans, they decorate buses with their singer’s portrait while traveling the country and pay for subway station ads to mark their singer’s birthday or new album release.

Fans donate under their favorite performers’ names to aid the needy. They happily volunteer as fans.

The 400-meter Kim Ho-joong Sound Street in Gimcheon-si, North Gyeongsang Province, where he attended Gimcheon High School of Arts, is the ultimate tribute to their beloved artists.

In the past three years, fans in their 50s, 60s, and older have moved South Korea’s entertainment industry with their time and money.

Mr. Lim Young-woong, 31, performed the ceremonial kick-off at the Seoul World Cup Stadium in front of over 45,000 supporters on April 8.

His visit drew the greatest audience since the K League started counting paying fans in 2018. Many middle-aged ladies attended a football stadium for the first time.

Korean singer Mr. Lim is influential. He had 390 million YouTube views from January 7, 2022, to January 7, 2023, ranking second in South Korea behind IU and BTS.

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Music streaming brings Mr. Lim 30–40 billion won (S$31.22 million).

According to fans, sharing how to run their idol’s music on various platforms at once boosts streaming views.

“A fan in her 80s asked me what she could do for the singer she loves other than purchasing an album, so I taught her how to stream his songs on YouTube, Melon, Genie Music and Vibe,” an unidentified fan told The Korea Herald.

“Why do we love Lim Young-woong?” author Jowi told The Korea Herald that pop culture producers must have realized the size of the middle-aged market and the remarkable potential of this new form of fan community. Pen name Jowi.

Jowi developed the book after realizing Mr. Lim’s appeal is unique and unites individuals who feel healed by his music.

Middle-aged fans are becoming conscious that their actions may affect the music business and market landscape. “We can change the market” can enrich these fans’ lives, the author stated.

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