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Colors & K-Pop: Why Super Junior Fans Are Upset About WINNER's Lightstick [Analysis]

By Staff Writer | August 18, 2014 08:25 AM EDT

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In most places, fanclubs don't have official colors. But, in South Korea, idols and idol groups generally have a color that their fans are identified with. Big Bang's fans are known to wear black and white bandanas and carry gold V.I.P lightsticks, 2NE1 have white Blackjack symbols, TVXQ has red lightsticks, Girls' Generation has pearl pink, Super Junior is sapphire blue, Wonder Girls are pearl burgundy, to name a few.

SM Entertainment has been the largest company to implement the tradition, with just about every group having a defining color (sans f(x), although fans use periwinkle unofficially.) But with the release of YG's new boy band WINNER, netizens pointed out that the rookie group's blue-purple lightstick is similar in hue to Super Junior's sapphire blue ones.  While there are different colors included in the WINNER lightsticks, they still gained notice among international Super Junior fans.

Many international fans reduce the color stick battle as just silly bickering between YG fans and SM fans, it actually could have much larger repercussions.

Even within the same company, fans have issues. CSJH (The Grace, another SM Entertainment girl group) and Girls' Generation fans got into an argument after Girls' Generation become much more popular than CSJH, due to similarity in balloon colors. CSJH, the older group, used "pastel rose pink" and Girls' Generation uses "pastel rose," and SM Entertainment eventually buckled under Girls' Generation's fans requests and changed CSJH's color slightly, to simply "pearl pink."

Colors do not necessarily match the group; INFINITE's color is "metal gold pearl" but the group has never had a concept or song with the color. This is in comparison to a group like Super Junior that has a song called "Sapphire Blue," but the song only came after the fans put importance on it.

The point of colors in K-Pop is the fandom, rather than the artists themselves. Most K-Pop concert goers outside of Asia are not going to their favorite idol group's concert; at any given K-Pop concert in the United States, you do not only see paraphanalia of the idol group that is performing, but multitudes of idol groups.

In South Korea, this doesn't happen. Fandoms are very dedicated, and when you go to a concert, whether it is the artist's concert or a concert like Dream Concert where multiple idols perform, you wear your favorite artist's colors and logos, or you wear nothing.

Many international fans have heard about "black oceans" in Korea, where lightsticks go off in a concert audience, as if to shun an artist; Girls' Generation famously experienced a "black ocean" at the 2008 Dream Concert. This meant that there was no sizable amount of fans supporting them, cheering them on.

Black oceans have become less prevalent, but there were unfounded rumors of one occurring at the 2013 Dream Concert to T-Ara.

So having no lightsticks with a group's fan colors is problematic. That doesn't explain why Super Junior's fans are annoyed by WINNER's color being relatively similar.

Except that it does, since it is as if a new fan group is coming along and saying "the king is dead, long live the king."

YG Entertainment's perceived slight (perceived primarily by Super Junior fans) towards Super Junior can be meant to be understood that Super Junior's fandom is waning, so it won't be a problem if WINNER's color similar.

Super Junior is an older idol group, but it still has many loyal fans; concert that Super Junior performs at have literal sapphire blue oceans. But few people doubt that WINNER will be a huge success, so from Super Junior's fan's viewpoint, it means that there will be another blue-ish hue encroaching on their fandom; there may be confusion between who are Super Junior's fans and who are WINNER's fans.

It seems a bit infantile, but when fans from all over the world watch broadcasts, the camera always pans over the audience, and fans can immediately recognize how many fans have come out to represent a particular fandom.

On closer look, the colors are very dissimilar. But that's really only if you hold them directly next to each other. With a camera panning over the audience, it may look that Super Junior's fandom is split up (fans generally sit together at Korean concerts,) or that WINNER's fan representation is larger than Super Junior's.

At the end of the day, fan colors don't matter, but rather the loyalty of a fan group. Super Junior's fans are famed for their loyalty, having gone through a lot with the idol group; "sapphire blue" and Super Junior are almost synonymous among Korean fans of K-Pop.

So it is less an actual problem, and perhaps a fear of Super Junior fans that WINNER's presumption of the color means that other idol companies see Super Junior's reign waning.

Regardless, encroaching on another idol group's color in Korea is seen as rudeness, so the reaction by Super Junior fans isn't unexpected.

If it turns out that there is a sharp distinction between Super Junior and WINNER's lighsticks (as it appears to be,) then this whole controversy will die down quickly. However, WINNER's nightsticks literally just came out, so fans really have had no time to see them in action.

Colors in Korea represent the dedication of fans; the more of a color in an audience, the more popular an artist is. Similar colors are extremely popular, but every time it happens between two popular groups, it causes problems. That's really all this is, at the end of the day. Fans will quickly be able to differentiate between the crowds of Super Junior's fans and the crowds of WINNER's fans.

Tagged :  winner lighstick, super junior winner, sapphire blue winner

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