The immense popularity of K-Pop is undeniable. Its fans can not only be found in the country of origin of this musical genre, South Korea, but there are also millions of other fans spread out across the globe. Their shared fondness of the same idols has led to the mushrooming of their fan groups, better known as fandoms. Twitter notes that there were 6.1 billions tweets on K-Pop just in the past year – K-poppers, as fans of this music genre are known, from Indonesia represent the fourth largest source of these tweets.
From just organizing themselves because of their shared love for their idols, the activities of these fandom later developed further to include positive social activities such as providing relief assistance for victims of natural disasters to activities related to politics, such as when they undermined the campaign of then US President Donald Trump.
One of these K-poppers groups that is currently coming under the spotlight is KPop4Planet, a community that was formed in March 2021 to voice concerns about environmental conservation. They have taken part in protests against the Omnibus Law, against deforestation and global warming.
The militancy, solidity and number of these K-poppers made their voice, willing or not, one to be reckoned with. They can make a difference.
To know more about the involvement of these K-Poppers in safeguarding the environment and how they mobilize their fans to be involved in activities related to nature conservation, The Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists (SIEJ) talked to one of the KPop4Planet organizers, Nurul Sarifah, on Wednesday, March 12, 2021.
Part of our interviews is as follow.
The petition to demand that Tokopedia use renewable energy sources and go green by 2030 has made KPop4Planet recently popular. Can you explain about what KPop4Planet is and talk a little about its establishment?
KPop4Planet came into being because of a common interest in environmental issues. Last November, the BlackPink girlband was appointed as UN ambassadors to the 26th Climate Change Conference (COP26). Following that, we tried to link K-Popper with environmental issues. KPop4Planet then became a platform for K-Poppers who are still confused about making a choice. This community accommodated their voice on environmental issues. In March 2021, on Earth Day to be exact, we declared the establishment of KPop4Planet in Indonesia.
Do all K-Poppers automatically become members of KPop4Planet?
Because KPop4Planet is a movement, we do not exclude the possibility that K-Poppers become part, as long as they have an interest on environmental issues and are willing to fight for environmental justice.
Why is KPop4Planet opting to deal with environmental and climate change issues?
We have already often seen K-Poppers dealing in environmental issues. When their idols have their birthday, their fans will give them presents. Those K-Poppers who cares for the environment would donate trees, plant trees and forests for their idols. Some even have rare animal adoption programs in the name of their diols. They care for others and for this planet.
What is the main aim of this movement?
We want fellow K-Poppers become aware of the importance of environment for our survival. We are doing this with the aim of engaging in actions to overcome this climate crisis.
Where, in Indonesia, has this movement been active?
We have held a webinar with the environment as a theme. We have worked with SuperJunior fans. We have planted trees in the Bedono area of Ambarawa in Central Java. We are open to all fans to work and move together.
KPop4Planet gathers a number of groups idolizing different artists. Has there been any conflict because of competition between these idols?
They (conflicts) may exist outside of KPop4Planet, but within KPop4Planet itself we do not want to compete. We lay emphasis on mutually helping each other. Instead of fans wars, we better help each other and care for the environment. That is what we are stressing.
Which one came first: You were basically already environment conscious and then encouraged your idols to campaign for the same issues, or was it the other way around?
Our movement relies on the strength of our fans. It started from our fans and moved to our idols. Therefore, the main foundation is the strength of the fans. We once voiced our protests agains the Omnibus law.
We can see that K-Poppers are not only consisting of fan girls, but also there is an awareness of the environment and environmental justice. We also act to collect donations when natural disasters struck Sulawesi and Kalimantan. We want to give rise to a new perspective, that KPop4Planet is working to achieve environmental justice.
Has there ever been a K-Popper movement that has received support from Idols?
Yes. At the time, the Black Lives Matter was at its height and BTS and its Army (BTS fans) voiced this issue. This movement then swelled and made an impact. This shows that any fans’ movement, if backed by idols, can become huge.
Do the idols (K-Pop artists) know about the movements initiated by their fans? If they do, how do they support KPop4Planet?
We have only been there since March and so far, we do not know how the idols are responding. If, for example, an idol supports a movement, then it would give rise to a growing movement on environmental issues.
K-Pop fans are known for their militancy and togetherness. How is that solidarity built?
We share the same interest. We like the same idols and K-Pop music. These make us much closer.
Members of KPop4Planet appear to come from many countries? How do you coordinate your campaigns?
Because the base of our movement is in social media, we are using the social media. They often use Twitter. This is what links us. Through social media we can also communicate further in holding various activities. We also communicate with our fan base through the social media.
Why is it that only Tokopedia was targeted by the KPop4Planet campaign in Indonesia? Will there be other campaigns?
We chose Tokopedia because the base of this e-commerce is in Indonesia. We also realize that K-Pop fans in Indonesia are numerous.
Besides that, Tokopedia is also increasingly closer to and familiar with K-Poppers because they have chosen major idols (BTS and BlackPink) as their brand ambassadors. Of course we wish that Tokopedia can use its strength to use renewable energy.
Do you deem that Tokopedia is not yet environmentally friendly?
We want that in the future Tokopedia can be more environmentally friendly. We see Tokopedia as having the ability and the opportunity to throw their support behind movements for friendly energy. They should be committed to that.
What are the constraints in voicing environmental problems?
We see that K-Poppers want to know more about the conditions of the environment. But information received from environmental organizations are sometimes difficult to understand for K-Poppers. We are trying to overcome this by providing easy to understand content. This is part of our education. Make them interested first, so that they want to know more. The constraint lays in preparing simpler content.
Information from environmental organizations have so far been rather too heavy and thus K-Poppers have not been too familiar with the way they were presented. We are choosing topics that are easy to understand and use a simple language so that K-Poppers can understand it. Environmental conditions would only deteriorate if we stay silent and there is no changes. Therefore, we are calling on them (K-Poppers) to act so that there would be no more climate crisis.
What are the challenges you are facing in voicing environmental issues?
Mobilizing the mass. K-Poppers are numerous and there are many fandoms, its fan base is also widespread. We approach those fan bases one by one, sharing with them movements in environmental issue with their K-Poppers. Our challenge is in mobilizing the masses to move together.
What hopes do you have for the KPop4Planet movement?
We hope that this movement of ours can receive the support of other organizations which voice environmental issues. Let us voice environmental issues together. We also hope that what we are voicing can be heard by the government. K-Poppers are very noisy and thus we hope that our voice can be widely heard so that it can impact the conservation of environment in Indonesia.