Although music is universal and K-pop (Korean pop music) is becoming more and more popular globally, there are some extreme differences between the Western music industry and the Korean music industry. Here is a short dictionary of sorts to help define some words that are commonly used in K-pop fandoms that may not be as familiar to a Western audience.
A form of fanservice from idols where they act cute (almost child-like) through facial expressions, exaggerated voices, and movements. Both male and female idols are often asked to perform “aegyo” and depending on the idol some are incredibly reluctant to act cutesy.
An idol who excels in singing, dancing, and rapping.
A K-pop fan who actively dislikes a group and/or idol. Antis can be equated to online trolls who go out of their way to hate on the group/idol.
Your favorite member of a group. There is no standard way to choose a bias, some fans prioritize looks, some talent, some humor, etc.
The member of a group who catches your attention and makes you rethink your bias. Your bias wrecker doesn’t necessarily ever replace your bias but it is possible (when they do it is called being “bias-wrecked”).
An app that allows idols to “text” fans. By paying a subscription fee fans can receive texts from idols and send their own messages in response. While the idols are the ones directly messaging the fans, they see the fans’ messages like a gigantic group chat so it is unlikely that they ever are directly responding to messages. Bubble is similar to the Universe app.
A position in a group, usually given to an attractive idol in the group with excellent stage presence as they’re often given the center position during performances and featured a lot within promotions and music videos.
When a group or idol releases new music.
The grand prize of an award show. For music, daesangs include Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, etc.
Quite literally a video of the idol/group practicing choreography for a performance. Since most K-pop songs involve choreography for performances, idols/groups film dance practices so fans can get both an inside look into some of the rehearsal process as well as to give an easier visual to fans learning the choreography (rather than using stages which play with a lot of camera angles). Some dance practices use themes to make the videos more interesting for fans (ie a costume dance practice, a cute version, etc.).
When a trainee transitions into an idol by releasing their first official song/album.
Face of the Group
A position in a group given to an idol that is responsible for bringing public attention to their group. They are the member most often promoted by the company on variety shows or at public events.
A video that focuses on a single member of a group during a performance. There are fan taken fancams as well as officially taken ones at music shows. Fancams allow fans to see a member through the whole performance versus if they just watch a stage that tends to have the camera jump from member to member.
A combination of lyrics and group members’ names, fanchants are a way that the audience can join in with performances without drowning out the songs by endless screaming.
Usually decided on by the idol/groups themselves, a fandom name is exactly what it sounds like, a name the fandom can refer to themselves by.
A position in a group, a leader’s job is to motivate and take care of the other members as well as represent them during stages, award shows, interviews, etc. There are no set criteria for appointing a leader but usually, it is an older member of the group who has trained for a while.
A piece of official fandom merchandise specifically designed for each group that fans can bring to concerts and wave during concerts to create beautiful visual effects.
The youngest member of a group.
Someone who is a fan of more than one K-pop group.
There are multiple music programs broadcast in Korea weekly that allow idols/groups to promote new music by performing.
Someone active on the internet, usually sharing opinions or comments.
Usually given in albums, photocards are literally a photo of an idol. In the K-pop community, they are seen as collectible and some fans try to obtain their bias or collect all the members. Photocards are used by companies as a way to sell more albums as the photocards are randomly distributed in each album, so unless two fans are directly purchasing/trading photocards there is no way to guarantee which member you will get.
Aside from the positions leader, center, face of the group, visual, and maknae which I defined separately, the main positions in a group are vocalist, dancer, and rapper. Members of a group who focus on these areas will be assigned those positions within subcategories. Most members of a group will be assigned multiple positions.
Main (vocalist, dancer, rapper): Usually the member with the most technique who will get priority for lines or dance breaks.
Lead (vocalist, dancer, rapper): Usually the member(s) with strong technique who help supplement the main (vocalist, dancer, rapper)’s skills.
Sub (vocalist, dancer, rapper): Sometimes referred to as simply vocalist, dancer, or rapper they get fewer parts than the main or lead but are involved in singing/dancing/rapping parts.
Someone training to become an idol. There is no definite “trainee period” and it usually consists of grueling practice in vocals, dance, language, and sometimes acting.
Your favorite bias/group among all the biases/groups you support.
Much like Bubble (defined previously), Universe is an app that allows idols to directly communicate with fans through texts, videos, and posts. Fans are given access to content based on their subscriptions. Just like with Bubble, idols are the ones communicating with fans but it is not a one-on-one interaction.
A major part of regular television content in Korea, variety shows can be any combination of talk shows, games, quizzes, sketches, etc. Idols often make guest appearances to promote themselves on famous variety shows. Sometimes idols/groups also have their own variety show.
A position within a group usually given to the most conventionally attractive member.
A video streaming service that allows idols/groups to not only share content like music videos and dance practices but also to “go live” and casually talk to fans.
An app that allows idols/groups to share content with fans, like videos, posts, and Instagram-like stories. Fans are also able to make posts that idols can comment on.
Stephanie is a writer who received her Bachelor's Degree in English at Vassar College (2020). In her time not working on her WIP novel, she is busy reading, studying Korean and Japanese, or learning new K-Pop choreographies.