China's online angry youth and the power of rumour: Jihad against K-Pop
Ross, K, China's online angry youth and the power of rumour: Jihad against K-Pop, Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand Conference: Cool New Asia: Asian Popular Culture in a Local Context, 25 C 26th November, 2011, Auckland, New Zealand, pp. KR. (2011) [Conference Extract]
The expanding Chinese fan base for Korean cultural products over the last 10 years demonstrates the soft power impact of the Korean Wave (韓流). Korean performers such as BoA and the boy band Super Junior (SJ) play to sold out stadiums whenever they tour China. In May 2010, a SJ show at the World Expo in Shanghai proved so popular that a discrepancy between the number of tickets promised (5,000) and the number given out (2,000) led to a chaotic stampede. Angry fans attacked security forces and Expo volunteers, resulting in many people sustaining injuries. Given the extensive media presence at Expo, the fans attracted criticism for losing China’s ‘face’ to the world. In the days after the incident, a small group apologised on behalf of all SJ fans.
This apology initiated an online ‘holy war’ (圣战) on K-pop. Beginning on the Chinese ‘World of Warcraft’ multiplayer game site, a call was issued for an Internet jihad against SJ and their ‘brain damaged’ (脑残) fans. On June 9th 2010, thousands of attacks brought down any website associated with SJ, including personal band members’ sites and fan forums.
In this paper I propose that the ‘jihad’ can be read as more than just another example of China’s hyper-nationalistic online ‘angry youth’ (愤怒青年) taking action against those perceived to humiliate China. By engaging with the work of the Subaltern Studies group on rumour, this paper examines how the Internet (particularly microblogs and multiplayer role-play games) fosters the transformation of multiple online identities into what can be termed a community of action. In addition, the language used in the attacks signals the importance of a generational rift within China’s youth which is then utilised against the fans of K-pop.