From Blackpink to Girls’ Generation to Brave Girls, K-pop girl groups have a lot to thank their female fans for

a group of people posing for a photo: K-pop girl group Brave Girls had one of 2021’s biggest hits in South Korea with Rollin’, released four years ago. They should thank their female fans for its success more than their male ones. Photo: Brave Entertainment K-pop girl group Brave Girls had one of 2021’s biggest hits in South Korea with Rollin’, released four years ago. They should thank their female fans for its success more than their male ones. Photo: Brave Entertainment

Four years after its release, the song Rollin' by K-pop girl group Brave Girls is one of 2021's biggest hits in South Korea. Though much of the media narrative has been focused on how South Korea's enlisted men have been supporting the band, that is just part of the story.

Professor Kim Jung-won, an ethnomusicologist and adjunct lecturer at South Korea's Yonsei University, studies Korean music culture, K-pop, fandom, and gender studies, and thinks female fans are integral to the success of K-pop girl groups and this is being overlooked.

"The resurgence of K-pop girl groups and their old songs has been sparked by videos of their live performances their male fans took in local events and shared through social media," Kim tells the Post, pointing to when EXID's 2014 song Up & Down became one of 2015's biggest hits after a fan-cam, recorded by a male fan, went viral.

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"Once the fan-cams go viral, many viewers, including female audience members, get interested in the girl groups. Based on my observation of K-pop fandom, the 'female' audience has played far more important roles in promoting the girl groups and their music than male fans."

a group of people posing for the camera: EXID's 2014 song Up & Down went on to become one of 2015's biggest hits. © Provided by South China Morning Post EXID's 2014 song Up & Down went on to become one of 2015's biggest hits.

A similar instance happened with Brave Girls, when a video of their performances embedded with comments from audiences praising Rollin' went viral earlier this year.

Kim questions the media narrative in which men serving in the military played a big roll in Brave Girls' success, and raises concern over the way male audiences are being viewed as "saving" the band's career. "They just made the group go viral. The actual and practical promotion has been conducted by female fandom," asserts Kim, pointing to the work of female audiences over the years who have supported Brave Girls' music, as well as Taeyeon of Girls' Generation sharing on her Instagram account during a live-stream that she had been aware of the song being a wonderful one and good-naturedly chastised listeners for not knowing it since its release.

From Blackpink to Girls’ Generation to Brave Girls, K-pop girl groups have a lot to thank their female fans for