By Nadine Kam I
In light of Eminem’s appearance at Aloha Stadium over the weekend, I thought I’d mention his lasting (though inadvertent) contribution to the K-pop lexicon via his song, “Stan,” dating to 2000.
Stan is used by many fandoms, but in K-pop in particular because it’s a genre that breeds more than its fair share of so-called “stalker fans.” The name happens to work as a portmanteau, combining the sounds and meanings of “stalker” and “fan,” to create a word that brings back the element of extreme devotion lost over time as “fan” became an abbreviation of the original descriptor of such obsessive individuals, “fanatic.”
His song is about an obsessed fan named Stanley Mitchell who identifies closely with the star, his life and struggles, initially penning friendly letters that get more desperate and threatening over time when the star fails to respond.
The word made it to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2017, which defines “stan” as “an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity.”
The South Koreans have their own word to describe such fans. “Sasaeng,” meaning private life, but also used to describe over-obsessive fans of Korean idols or other public figures, who intrude on their private lives, going as far as to put the stars in danger. Car accidents have been caused by their pursuit of celebrities. This type of stalking is considered only a minor offense in Korea, with a fine of $100,000 won, less than US$100.
The Korean entertainment industry excels at turning otherwise normal individuals into stans. While I’m not crazy enough to engage in the types of behavior in the video below, I did get obsessed enough to launch this blog, even though I have spent half a lifetime without exhibiting an ounce of cultish behavior!