Being a K-pop fan is like a magical door to many experiences. From listening to music, watching and streaming videos, attending concerts and gatherings, to collecting merchandise.
When the global pandemic started, people were almost always inside their homes. Because of this, many have revamped their bedrooms, study/work areas, and for K-pop fans– their merch shelves.
Anne, a BTS fan/ARMY started collecting BTS merch in 2014. Her first two albums were No More Dream and O!RUL8,2?. Eight years later, she has two huge shelves full of various merch– from albums, DVDs, light sticks, magazines, toys, and even paper bag collectibles and containers!
Photo from Irene Octaviano / @irenea_twt on Twitter
Occasionally started buying albums in 2017, Irene has been a fan of multiple K-pop groups (“multi-stan”) for ten years. Because of the rising rookie group Enhypen, her collection started piling up. “August 2021 lang ako nagstart kilalanin sila but makukumpleto ko na album nila this year ❤️ hehe i feel so proud!” (I only started getting to know them in August 2021 but I am about to complete their albums this year ❤️ hehe I feel so proud!) She even said that her mother has been supportive and helped her build her first K-pop shelf!
Photo from @anneeers on Instagram
Simply searching about K-pop shelfies or collections will show you many fascinating merch displays!
The Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines has been a great avenue for me to meet K-pop enthusiasts. I asked some of my fellow volunteers/Krew members who are also K-pop fans what their most prized merch is. Learning about their experiences was definitely very heartwarming.
“EXO is that one group who completely lured me into the K-Pop World and have made my life much more colorful and exciting. As a then-broke college student, becoming a K-Pop fan was quite a challenge to me because I cannot buy my faves’ albums and merch. But because of EXO, I learned how to manage my money wisely and save for their much awaited concerts in the country. These versions of EXO lightstick—or ‘Eribong’ as Eris call it—show and remind me of all the good times I’ve had with them for years. 🤍”
- Yara De Guzman / @yyparkq on Twitter
“This is my fave Eunwoo Broadcast photocard which I got back in 2019, Blue Flame era and it was the first time I saw Astro in person. I booked a flight to go with friends a few weeks before the trip after knowing the comeback schedule, just hoping to see them even once, but got to watch them 6 times live! Best moment of my fangirl life, and this is my souvenir from it 💜”
- Bea Mercado
“My most prized merch, aside from my ARMY Bomb collection, would be these two purple concert fan signs. These are very special because I got these from BTS' 5th Muster: Magic Shop during my first ever visit to South Korea with my ARMY friends!”
- @chimnmeri on Twitter
“My most prized merch is my signed Astro album which I got from attending their fansigning during their promotions in South Korea.”
- Chester De Guzman / @_cyuroo on Instagram
"A merchandise that is something every fanclub would have - a light stick! For me, the MooBong doesn't only show my identity as a fan, it is also what we, MooMoos, use in concerts, be it Live or Online, to show both our support and the signs that we are having fun!"
- @mikidibs on Instagram
“My most prized merch is BTS’ 2014 Summer Package with all of the members' signatures. I was pretty lucky to be picked with a friend by BTS themselves during their Mwave live stream to receive this Summer package. 💜”
- @anneeers on Instagram
Photo by the author / @merceline_ on Instagram
These merch remind me of my unforgettable adventure when I visited BTS’s official exhibition “24/7=Serendipity (오,늘)” in Seoul last 2017. I was in awe when I saw up close different exclusive photos, videos, handwritten notes, autographed stuff, and also some significant music video/concert props and outfits. I even went in twice because I ran out of time to buy merch. Haha! Everything in that exhibit will forever be etched on my fangirl memories!
Photo from @Moon Suntwo
Moving a bit away from K-pop, Krew member Regine shared the gift she won: a DIY calendar personally made by K-drama actors Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin for the promotion of Crash Landing On You.
Ever since SMART launched their “Live your Passion with Purpose” campaign with my favorite Korean superstars BTS, I see to it that I am always updated with their releases. Last May, I claimed the SMART+BTS photocards using my Giga points. Seeing my fave idols through ads and merch collabs here in my country really makes me feel thrilled!
I was surprised when I saw this huge signage beside the BTS: Map of the Soul Pop-up store at SM Megamall!
Through SMART’s online store, I also got to purchase the SMART+BTS kit last August. I even squealed when I got my bias on the paper bag print. Haha! I like it when they give it out randomly– it’s like a mini surprise for fans.
These are great additions to my current BTS merch collection. I feel grateful that SMART continues to create different merchandise for local fans like me. This is one way of being connected to my fave idols despite the distance and current pandemic restrictions.
Collecting merch sparks joy
Fans from all over the world never cease to find ways to support their favorite artists. Collecting merchandise does not only make them feel connected with their idols, but also make them feel a sense of belongingness within a community.
“It’s not about the items themselves, rather it’s about the stories fans share about these items in their fan community — its history, how it came about, how they came to acquire it, what it is, what it could be.”1
In difficult times, finding comfort is one way to take care of ourselves. For K-pop fans, their merchandise— from buying, collecting, and displaying it on their shelves— makes them feel closer to their fave artists, and cherish memories that come along with it. Merch shelves become their happy corners, a simple study/work/life motivation just enough to ease some pandemic blues.
1The price of being a K-pop fan (cnnphilippines.com)
Merceline knows quite a lot about Korean culture as she's been fascinated by it since over a decade ago. She's travelled to Korea eight times, is a "Krew"/volunteer staff for the Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines, and an Honorary Reporter for Korea.net. She's really into Korean stuff— from dramas, music, and films to food, fashion, and skincare, but has yet to put all her thoughts in a single webpage. Oh and by the way, she's grateful to BTS as they make her want to live better.