|Hyuna, center, and E'Dawn, right, pose at their press showcase on July 18 to promote Triple H's new album "Retro Futurism." Yonhap|
By Kwak Yeon-soo
Singer Lee Yong rose to stardom in 1981 after his debut song "Wind" garnered phenomenal success. His popularity, however, was short-lived. He lied about his marital status and was found to have a wife. He disappeared from the public eye abruptly as angry fans boycotted the singer and his performances. This is what happened in the 1980s.
Korean fans have changed a lot over the past decades. They no longer perceive their idols as their own possessions. Fans became more tolerant about their idols' romantic relationships with other celebrities or ordinary people.
Despite this, K-pop singer HyunA and her boyfriend E'Dawn are facing a backlash from fans after their romantic relationship was made public.
Not only has E'Dawn been excluded from attending the group's fan club event held on Aug. 11, Triple H ― the project group consisting of E'Dawn, HyunA and Hui, another member of Pentagon ― cut short their promotion of the new song "Retro Future."
Some fans demand E'Dawn to leave Pentagon, saying he cheated on them and Pentagon for two years while dating HyunA.
"E'Dawn has been deluding his members and fans. Based on his words and actions, intended to show love for his girlfriend, we (fans) no longer want E'Dawn to be involved with the rest of the members in the name of Pentagon," Pentagon fan @daengiegu wrote on Twitter.
On the other hand, another Pentagon fan @itzjstdazzle from Nigeria wrote "The fact Korean fans say it's their culture, a culture of not allowing a grown man to date because he is an idol, is not something they should be proud of."
Regarding some Korean fans' backlash, culture critic Ha Jae-keun says although fans may have been disappointed, their reaction doesn't mean they object to their idols dating like ordinary people. But he noted fans want their idols to control their emotions at least in the public eye.
"Regarding E'Dawn, fans may feel betrayed because they thought he was distracted by his celebrity girlfriend and he isn't solely devoted to his role as a musician and entertainer. This sense of betrayal is behind some fans' boycott of his CDs, concert tickets and other related goods," Ha said.
He added that HyunA may have less damage to her career because the veteran idol has a more mature reputation and solidified fanbase. "In the early 1990s, if a dating rumor between idols spread among fans, a female star was attacked viciously by fans ― some even receiving death threats. Compared to then, the situation has become much better," he said.
Some say HyunA and E'Dawn drew the ire of some fans partly because they initially denied the media reports that they were together but later reversed their position to admit they had been together for two years.
Fans felt a sense of betrayal because their idols lied about their relationship, they say.
Another critic Park Ji-jong says a singer's public image plays an important factor in deciding whether fans and the public support or condemn their dating.
"It's true a majority of fans feel betrayed when they hear news about their favorite idols dating. But there are more and more fans out there who perceive it as 'my idol's private business' and simply cheer them on," Park said.
Park also points out that as the entertainment industry transformed along with the liberating force of social media, idols have started to express themselves more openly.
According to him, K-pop stars now communicate with their fans directly through social media, whereas that was not possible in the past, as they mostly communicated via their agencies.
"HyunA and E'Dawn admitting their relationship to local media and posting a message on Instagram instead of communicating through their agency is noteworthy in understanding the shifting power game between agencies and artists," he said.