Oh! Press Talk: Fan Gift Culture

For years, as a demonstration of their appreciation, fans have gifted idols anything from flowers to billboards advertising their birthdays. It’s a long tradition accepted by the industry as a way to give back directly to the people who we adore. However, over time (and the past few weeks in particular) there have been a few incidents where gifts have overstepped the boundaries between fan and sasaeng. Some of these cases have left their chosen idol in an awkward position, or even with their lives at risk. These interactions and gifts dredge up a long-discussed topic: Should idols accept gifts? Where do managers need to intervene? And where is the boundary for fans?


Gift. What is a gift? According to Google, a gift is a thing given willingly to someone without payment. According to me, a gift is something that you give to someone not because you have to but because you want to without hoping to get something in return such as monetary compensations and services.

I’d like to make it simple. We’re going to briefly discuss about the good and the bad things about fan gift culture. Let’s start with the bad things (everyone loves a happy ending right?). It becomes bad when fans try to buy or prepare excessive presents for their favorite artists. How does one determine if a gift is excessive? Easy, it’s unnecessary, could be harmful, and just plain wasteful. An expensive mobile phone, a car, branded clothing, and even a piece of land. Believe it or not, your favorite artist(s) most probably won’t need such a gift and it could become burdensome to them. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. Your love and support for them are priceless. That’s what they seek, and such “insignificant” and “imperfect” acts are actually the one that will drive them to continue deliver great things throughout their career.


Personally I am not against idols receiving gifts from their fans but idols need to understand that there is a limit to the gifts they should accept. Most fans are usually students who are still schooling and thus have to depend on their parents for daily expenses. Some of them even work after school to secure more money for their personal usages. Money is precious and some of them spend it on luxury items and gadgets to gift it to their idols, but these are the items that idols should refuse to accept. Why? Idols need to encourage fans to think about their own future lives instead of encouraging them to spend money on expensive items. Gifts like simple snacks or even messages book should be enough for the idols. After all, it is the thought behind the gifts that count no matter how cheap it is.


On the surface, idols accepting gifts is not a huge deal. Fans show their adoration through heartfelt letters, handmade gifts or personalised and expensive items. It’s perfectly fine so long as these gifts are not costing fans or their financial backers arm-and-leg. But if the scale of the gift is too large and burdening such as property, shares or a holiday ticket, then idols and their management should reject them. This calibre of gifts is where the line needs to be drawn between adoration and an unhealthy obsession.


Understandably fans want to show their appreciation for idols with more personal gifts, however, safety and affordability should be taken into consideration too. Yunho’s incident of being poisoned with super glue filled orange juice suggests that snacks are too dangerous to gift. Whereas, expensive gifts are burdensome to fans who give them, their families, and other fans who cannot afford to do the same. We all know how competitive idol fans are, and I would not be surprised if they would try to one up each other to give their biases the most expensive or rare gifts. So, it’s better to go with personal, cheap, and safe options so that you can truly speak to the idol with your own words.


I don’t think fan gifts are inherently wrong, but there’s something to be said about spending enormous amounts of money on a celebrity this is wealthy enough to buy much of what is given to them by the fans. It’s not logical and it’s probably not the best use of hard-earned money. It is, however, the fans’ money (let’s assume for a moment they aren’t begging their parents for it). And if they are happiest when using it to buy extravagant billboard spaces or luxury clothing for their favorite idol, it’s a tricky thing to think about how justified we are in telling them not to. Especially since these projects are usually a collaborative effort on the part of many fans, and not one extremely devoted fangirl shelling out major cash.

There are some circumstances where I really appreciate the thought that goes into fan gifts. It is not uncommon for fans to put money towards charities or even buy forests for preservation in honor of their favorite idol. These are the best kind of projects because there’s a sort of universal productivity to them despite being done for the sake of one idol in particular. While these fans may have been acting in a way to promote and idol or celebrate their birthday, they’re funding a charity either way. It’s doing a good thing with neutral to good intentions.

I do also really respect idols who turn down at least the material gifts that they are sometimes barraged with in public spaces like airports and the like. Lay of EXO, for instance, has long since refused to accept fan gifts like this, except for letters. He can often be seen with a handful of letters that he reads while waiting at airport terminals and I find that really touching. A handwritten letter is going to be able to convey a much more direct and heartfelt message than any designer pair of shoes. And it costs nothing but time as well. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, and something I appreciate every time I see.


Fan gifts aren’t a bad idea. They’re a way for fans to show idols that they truly appreciate them and what they do. However, there is a line that can be crossed. Idols are already making a lot of money; well the popular ones are, anyway. Fans don’t need to buy them iPhones, laptops, and other expensive items. Especially when these fans aren’t working and they have to use their parents’ money. Fan gifts should be small things, sometimes even handmade. A cute stuffed animal would do or a handmade bracelet. These idols get way too many gifts and even if they get an expensive one, they won’t have a personal connection to it since they don’t really have a personal connection to the gifter.

What are your thoughts about this culture? Share with us by leaving a comment down below!


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