Lately, actor Park Shi Hoo is under fire not just for his sexual assault scandal, but also for being on the receiving end of some very expensive fan gifts. When we say expensive, we mean the whole she-bang of course. It is being reported that the actor received a Jaguar and a costly home theater system from fans as gifts. It is one to be giving expensive gifts, but receiving them is a whole different ball game. When it comes to giving gifts to favorite celebrities, how much is too much?
Apart from the expense of having to buy goods and merchandise for their favorite idols, fans of Korean entertainment artists also find themselves digging deeper into their pockets to send lavish gifts. The price is even higher for international fans since most of the time they also have to bear the high cost of shipping. And this gift giving practice is often not a one-time thing, but occurs multiple times for different occasions. Fans usually give gifts for the birthday of their favorite member in a band, to give support for a comeback, to greet at airports or to send during concerts. When hearing and witnessing fans giving gifts, one can't help but wonder where Korean entertainment artists are keeping these cherished keepsakes. Some gifts are thoughtful mementos, while others are quite large purchases, now even getting as far as receiving a car from fans.
The question is whether Korean entertainment artists are responsible for being concerned when receiving gifts from fans, especially for the more expensive purchases. While of course the rules of common etiquette dictate that gifts that are given should be received graciously to avoid offending the giver, should idols indicate a preference to fans, especially when expressing their thanks on their social networks. Should modesty play a role somewhere? This is going to be really tricky territory because East Asian cultures are typically a gift-giving (and therefore a gift-receiving) culture. So, indicating a preference will be a challenge and can be viewed as a diss by some well-meaning fans.
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Lately, fans have really matured and have taken to giving their favorite artists more meaningful gifts in the form of food support or even charity donations. This practice is commendable especially since the gift goes to a much larger cause or is shared across a much larger group. However, raising funds for such gifts becomes almost a popularity contest, as we see concert halls being filled to the brim with sacks of rice, banners and the like to display such fan gifts. This brings the discussion then on why fans give gifts in the first place? Of course fans give gifts because they want to send their thoughts to their favorite artists as an appreciation of their idols' sweat, blood and tears. But is that all? With idols often tweeting selcas with gifts they have received to show their gratitude, one can think that fans also give gifts because they want to be recognized and given attention by the big star they appreciate from faraway.
All these being said, the practice of gift-giving will definitely not go away. However, it will be good to reflect sometimes, as fans giving the gift or as artists receiving the gift, not only about the thought behind the gift, but also of the likely hardship due to high costs associated with any lavish or luxury items. Giving gifts should be meaningful, not stressful. Receiving them should be a moment of gratitude more than a moment of indebtedness or worse a moment that can spark a scandal.