Agnes He, a university student in the southeastern Jiangsu Province of China, said that she believed it could help rein in fan behavior that had gone too far. But she also fretted about whether she could still buy albums at a discounted price through group purchases organized by the fan accounts.
Daily Business Briefing
Sept. 2, 2021, 4:54 p.m. ET
“I am quite sensible when chasing stars,” Ms. He said in a phone interview on Monday, adding that she saw pop idols as positive and energizing influences. “It’s a personal freedom. Just because I like Korean pop idols doesn’t mean I’m not patriotic.”
K-pop fans around the world are known for their organizational prowess, with many decking out billboards, giant LED screens and public transportation vehicles to show support ahead of an album release or a favorite band member’s birthday. Some have turned to political activism, and others took credit for helping to inflate expectations for a rally in Oklahoma for Donald J. Trump, then the American president, by reserving tickets they had no intentions of using.
But the online armies of Korean pop music fans are running up against President Xi Jinping’s sweeping agenda to clean up aspects of the entertainment industry in China. The Cyberspace Administration of China banned the ranking of celebrities by popularity. A regulator also accused an actress, Zheng Shuang, of tax evasion, fined her more than $46 million and ordered broadcasters to stop showing content in which she had appeared.
BTS ran afoul of Chinese patriotic sentiment last year, when its leader, Kim Nam-joon, who performs under the stage name RM (formerly Rap Monster), made a seemingly innocuous remark about the shared suffering of Americans and Koreans during a ceremony commemorating the Korean War.
Chinese internet users erupted in anger, questioning why he had not also recognized the sacrifices of the Chinese soldiers who had fought on the side of North Korea. To pre-empt a nationalistic backlash, multinational brands scrubbed references of their collaborations with BTS on their Chinese websites and social media accounts.
This week, Chinese internet users both celebrated and criticized the suspension of the K-pop fan accounts. Some saw it as a necessary balm against idol worship and excessive spending on celebrities, even going as far as to call BTS an “anti-China group” and Korean pop music a form of “cultural invasion.”