The Auntie Army…or, How the Ahjummas Just Might Save JYJ
Park Yoochun has outdone himself. The handsome youth who had already garnered a reputation in the JYJ/DBSK fandom as a lady-charmer has brought a new kind of girl home.
Since the first teaser, KBS drama Sungkyunkwan Scandal has advertised itself in Korea as “Sageuk (historical drama) for youths.” However, it is clear that the drama’s most vocal fans are not the younger but older women in their mid-30s, 40s, 50s and even 70s. For the majority of them, the cause of their ardent fangirlism is none other than JYJ’s Park Yoochun. With acting skills that belied his rookie status, the sensitivity in his eyes and subtlety of every movement as well as the nobility of his character (Lee Seon Joon), Park Yoochun has won over a population that just might prove to be his biggest ally.
With a devotion that more than easily rivals that of the younger generation for their idols, these women have organised themselves into an “auntie army” and are mobilising support for Yoochun and JYJ both on and offline. They were an undeniable presence at JYJ’s first Worldwide Concert in Seoul. Several of them with money (or rich husbands) formed the Blessing Yoochun fanclub for the purpose of doing charity work in Yoochun’s name. Whenever a Korean TV station hesitates to broadcast JYJ, the auntie army invades their homepage, message boards, phone lines and, once in a while, even Twitter accounts. An ahjumma poet by the name of Yoomyeongeuni (유명은이) even published a poem, Thank You Park Yoochun, attesting to the inspiration that much of the ahjumma population have found in JYJ through Yoochun.
What is more fortuitous for the careers of Yoochun, Junsu and Jaejoong is that Korean ahjummas have the reputation of being picky, opinionated, overly critical and don’t give full support to anything outside of their children easily; but, in the off-chance that they do decide to support something they are fiercely loyal to the end. There’s a popular story told in Korea: the world’s top-selling brands in kitchenware and home appliances are all basing their R&D (research and development) headquarters in Korea. They know that if they can get the Korean ahjummas to like a new product of theirs, it will sell anywhere in the world. In winning over such a substantial noona and ahjumma fanbase, JYJ have just ensured that they will never become irrelevant in Korea and can succeed anywhere in the world.
In addition, these older women belong to the generation that currently has the greatest say in society. They all vote. Those who work pay taxes, and those who don’t represent the greatest determinant of viewer ratings. This is a section of the population that Korean media can’t afford to ignore and whose opinions it can’t afford to dismiss.
And their opinion on JYJ, the lawsuit and SM is becoming clearer and clearer by the day. A great number of them have even educated themselves on the history of Dong Bang Shin Ki, though they generally care little for idol groups. With a mix of pride, admiration and respect, the ahjummas are also voicing regret and apologies. The majority of them are in the same generation as Lee Soo Man (the founder of SM) and Kim Young Min (the current CEO of SM). They take one look at the slave contracts that bound the DBSK boys, recognise the spectres of Korea’s authoritarian regimes that should have disappeared by now and can’t help but feel responsible. One fan on the JYJ Daum message board put it this way: “As I saw Yoochun and JYJ’s performance of Found You at the KBS Drama Awards…the way our boys trembled and the emotion in their voices…I thought to myself, there is no greater sin in this world than to stifle the dreams of the young.” More and more are finding the behaviour of their donggap (동갑; people of the same age/in the same generation) unacceptable.
This is the “7080 (chil gong pal gong) generation.” This is the generation with members in executive positions of every sector. This is the generation who are raising children to occupy executive positions in every sector. This is the generation that remembers the time when one had to do anything and everything to secure a meal; when the government would beat people for having long hair or wearing short skirts (the government literally went around college campuses with a ruler); some have even had their relatives conveniently “disappeared.” Therefore, unlike the teens and early twenty-somethings that make up the fanbase of other SM idol groups, these women are not intimidated by SM’s tactics nor as easily manipulated. SM can attack JYJ all they want, the ahjummas know they have better things to worry about.
Even in the midst of the needless fanwars, the noonas/aunties/ahjummas are preoccupied with the important things in life: career, home and children. However, SM should note, the auntie army is fully including the three boys of JYJ into their definition of “children”; reference to JYJ as “our children” has become common vocabulary for the auntie fans in the JYJ fan cafés. And SM should remember what Korean ahjummas are capable of when they feel that the health and wellbeing of their children are threatened:
It will make the Storming of the Bastille look like a picnic in the park.
Whatever the outcome of the court case, SM is now under the scrutiny of the auntie army, a fact the company should remember well before attempting to lay a finger on even a single hair of Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu’s head in the future.
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