This article discusses the recent emergence of adult male fans of Korean pop (K-pop) music who openly engage themselves in fan activities typically associated with teenagers (particularly teenage girls) and the significance of their adoration of young female celebrities. The recent appearance of the ‘samchon/uncle fans’ in the K-pop culture discourse marks the first instance since the early 1990s, when teenagers became the primary target audience of South Korea’s entertainment industry, in which male adults reclaimed a significant position as a demographic group of fans. The samchon fans differ from the traditional ajossi (middle-aged, patriarchal men) listeners of adult contemporary music in the kinds of singers and musical genres to which they listen, as well as in their self-identification as fans, participation in fan activities and mass media portrayals. I investigate the implications of the men’s consumption pattern and their representation in South Korean mass media within the contexts of the history of the construction of hegemonic masculinity in South Korea and of recent developments in East Asian popular culture. I also explore possible ways to apply, complicate and question existing theoretical and conceptual frameworks to explain the phenomenon and argue for the possibility of politically potent, alternative masculinities constructed and manifested through the men’s conspicuous consumption of cultural commodities.
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