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Queer Eye for K-Pop Fandom: Popular Culture, Cross-gender Performance, and Queer Desire in South Korean Cosplay of K-pop Stars

Korea Journal / Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2018, v.58 no.4, pp.87-113
(Lewis & Clark College)
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This paper challenges previous K-pop studies on fandom in South Korea to broaden their focus beyond straight-identified fans to include queer fans. Although previous studies have focused on male K-pop stars as the object of heterosexual desire, the phenomenon of “fan cosplay,” or “fancos” for short, demonstrates that these male stars also serve as a means for cross-gender identification for female fans. This paper explores K-pop’s role as a space for its young female fans to explore gender and sexual identity, as well as its influence on local queer subculture in terms of gendered styling, gendered pairing, and queer terminology. Furthermore, an examination of the historical changes in the popularity of fancos reveals the transformation in the recognition of homosexuality and its backlash in Korea as well as the strategies of the queer subculture to focus on invisibility and in-group differentiation. Therefore, a queer perspective on K-pop studies includes domestic queer fans in the study of K-pop, complicates the heteronormative assumptions of fandom studies, and the relationship between commercial media and desire and sheds light on sexual politics in South Korea.

Queer youth, K-pop, cosplay, fancos, cover dance, female masculinity, androgyny, cross-dressing, performance and performativity



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