Since fandom is an inextricable part of kpop fanfiction, I thought it was only appropriate to interview someone who has had a hand in bringing up both areas. Meet Sooji, a talented fic writer whose repertoire also includes being admin of two different kpop sites and being a seasoned event coordinator who has worked with the likes of HOT and Shinhwa. Read on for the juicy details and to find out what other cool things she has been a part of.
Contact information: hwanhee_chan(AT)hotmail.com
Online aliases: I’ve had so many over the years… but lately I’ve been pretty good about sticking with my real name
Forums most frequented:
past: KMH, the WA, sOompitown, H5T forever, shinhwa jjang, ailyna’s world, and of course 012 SHINHWA and 012 FTTS
present: the WA and soompi.com
Completed fics: soh mang, KOL, in my dreams, how deep is your love, can you see me, paper or plastic, and a bunch of one shots
Current fics: a better day, my world, where the grass is greener, heartbreaker, kizuna, and a ton of others
Additional information: …
A. KPOP FANDOM & INTERNET HISTORY WITH SOOJI
fancracked: Hello Sooji ^^ Thanks for agreeing to interview with us!
sooji: Thank you for asking.
fancracked: So as a start, can you tell us when you got into kpop and kpop fanfiction? And can you tell us what the kpop scene was like then?
sooji: I got into kpop in 94… I started writing fanfics in 97. Back in 94… We were all renting videos from the video stores in order to see any kpop stuff. Had to get Inki Gayo, Music Bank and Show Music Tank. Those were basically the only three shows with kpop artists on them at the time. I was lucky because I live close to LA (Koreatown), so I had tons of video stores to choose from and even CD stores. Most people had to order their CDs online. There was no English language friendly ANYTHING back then. If you didn’t speak Korean, you’d better know someone who did.
fancracked: Ouch ): That feels so different compared to today since we have translating teams.
sooji: In 94 there was only one English based kpop forum on the internet. JUST ONE lol
fancracked: Whoa! Can you remember the name?
sooji: Korealink. I’ll never forget that.
KoreaLink.com, Nov. 8, 1996
caption credits: Internet Archive: Wayback Machine
sooji: When HOT debuted in 96 Korealink created a forum for them too, and that’s where everyone went for almost a full year and then it crashed and we learned how to make our own forums. At the time, about 8 of us went and created forums. I had 2 forums, with co-owners who were my friends.
fancracked: Were the forums just HOT-specific or were they general kpop forums like Soompi?
sooji: 012 SHINHWA and 012 FTTS were my forums. Soompi came along right when the largest HOT forum on the net crashed so she was a godsend lol She told us what she wanted to do… what her vision was and we all helped her out in any way we could but mostly, she did all the work. It was called sOompitown and we made these awful little GIF houses and they just sat in a row with artists’ names on them. ie: shinhwa’s hOuse and you’d click on it and you’d get their bio and some pictures. Magazines were really popular back then too and most of them were about $12 a mag… and they came with posters.
fancracked: haha For a second I thought you meant fanmade magazines ^^;; (or do you?)
sooji: No no, real ones from Korea. yesasia.com and angelpop.com were selling the magazines and CDs and concert videos and stuff. Eventually though, YesAsia bought out AngelPop.
fancracked: Could you tell us more about the websites that were around and what they were well known for? (i.e. later on Solid07 was known as the place for good downloads.)
sooji: Before Solid07 there was Z&D and they did the same thing. My friend Ailyna had a site where she just scanned magazine pictures all day lol It was very helpful.
fancracked: What was it like for you guys behind the scenes? What sorts of things did you have to learn and go through to create your sites?
sooji: Fan sites were fun. We used free sites like Geocities and Yahoo Builder or whatever it was called and there were ads like… everywhere. It was so ugly and some of us just sucked it up and bought webspace so we didn’t have to deal with that anymore. We created our own blogs; instead of using all these free blog sites we learned the HTML/XML and java to make blogs. There were blog rings… where you could click on one person’s and get to just about everyone else’s, and all the fanpages were nice too. People created shrines basically… for their favorite group or member of a group…but after a while most of the sites became about the webmaster or webmistress in most of our cases. It was mostly an extension of us… with stuff about our fandoms.
fancracked: So since you’re an OG I guess you can easily answer this question … what are some general differences from then and now?
sooji: Oh… no YouTube lol Everything is much easier to access now and most of it will have subs on it which is nice. I know a lot of other “OG” fangirls aren’t too fond of the newer generation of fans. I think it’s because we didn’t have it this easy. It was almost like we had to work really hard to prove that we were fangirls, if that makes sense. There was no downloading mp3s back then. If you wanted it… you bought the whole album which you should do anyway. I don’t mind the newer generation of fangirls. I get annoyed really easily though when they assume things. Things like… Super Junior sings HAENG BOK… uh no that’s HOT. There was more label loyalty back then too. If you liked HOT, chances are… you liked SM and you knew all the artists coming outta SM… even if you didn’t really like them you knew them. If you liked Jinusean, you probably liked YG… it’s not like that anymore.
fancracked: What were “fan wars” like? I’ve seen others talk about them and I can get a general idea but really… what were they like?
sooji: HOT vs Sechskies SES vs FInkl we didn’t decide that… the labels did.
fancracked: Would you guys just kind of “hate on” one another on different forums?
sooji: Yeah pretty much. I didn’t get involved though because I liked all the groups but sometimes it was fun to watch. It was mostly saying bad things about the artists and then whoever took it to heart got yelled at and made fun of.
fancracked: hahah oh my… I think I’d be too scared to participate with all the flames flying around.
sooji: The good thing about all the fan wars was that they didn’t last long. There were people who hated certain artists forever… but the fans got along fairly well. There were only maybe 2 or 3 huge wars that were unrepairable.
fancracked: ): What were they if you don’t mind me asking?
sooji: There was a Sechskies forum. I don’t remember what it was called but a few of the girls who frequented there started an all out war with a bunch of girls at an HOT forum and it went on for months but they were doing really mean things to each other like hacking into each others’ emails and unnecessary things like that. Some of the fangirls were a bit too hardcore lol but once fanfics started being written the fangirls kind of split up. For a long time… we were all doing the same things… just enjoying the artists… pictures, talking about them… etc. and then fangirls kind of fell into categories. It was kind of unspoken, but everyone could tell it was different. There were fangirls who were also mods of forums and if you had a really popular forum, then you were also really popular and then there were fangirls who were fanfic writers and if your fic was popular, so were you. I think with the rise in popularity of Soompi, the need for other forums just kind of… wasn’t there anymore and I love Soomp unnie and I’ll support her forever, so I’m not bitter about it. Being a forum mod was hard work lol Plus I had the largest English based Shinhwa mailing list.
fancracked: Oo mailing list?!
sooji: Information about Shinhwa, their itinerary, pictures, whatever random info I had… I passed the mailing list to one of my dongsengs because it was becoming too much for me to handle with everything else I was doing. When I gave it to her… there were almost 1200 members… something like that.
fancracked: O_O Amazing!
sooji: Well, back then things like that were easier to get people into. It was the only one of its kind and info wasn’t as easy to get back then as it is now.
fancracked: How many people do you think were online and active back then compared to today?
sooji: Honestly? I think it’s the same. The only difference I think is that almost everyone now migrates around Soompi and a few other large sites whereas back then… you had tons of options but because of what I was doing at the time… I could see how much traffic was everywhere because I was pretty much everywhere.
B. KPOP WORK EXPERIENCE
fancracked: Aside from your experience as mod/admin of various kpop sites, how else were you involved with the kpop scene?
sooji: I worked for AngelPop before it was bought out. I worked there and then I moved to SBS. With AngelPop, I answered emails from customers and I helped organize the stock and keep inventory and I sat in the stock room and read magazines LOL With SBS I was an event coordinator. So the plans would come to me… what artists were coming, what venue we were doing it at, who all the sponsors were and it was my job to get volunteers who wouldn’t be unprofessional (so hard to do) and set up basically everything… lol book hotels for the artists, get them cars and drivers, make sure they all have their work visas, make sure they have a tour guide/translator if they wanted to go out and then I had to prep the venue. Make sure the dressing rooms were up to par, sound checks, etc. and the food. omg the food. I had to make sure everyone ate: the artists, their backdancers, their friends, their family who were there, their managers and coordi unnies.
fancracked: Wow that’s super impressive and awesome. I’m sure a gazillion people would love to have that job right about now ^^ Who were some of the most memorable gasoos that you remember meeting and/or working with?
sooji: Well, because I’m a fangirl too I think the most memorable were HOT, Sechskies and Shinhwa because I love them so much. I think I was very lucky. I don’t know how many fangirls can say they had lunch with HOT on their birthday. Or that they threw a birthday party for Lee Minwoo. That was so much fun by the way but yeah… that’s the kinda stuff I did and because of it, I had to change my screen name and email address several times.
fancracked: Eek I can only imagine >_< but the good beats out the bad in this case :p
sooji: Absolutely. I was doing something that I loved to do. Being able to work with the artists I admired was just a bonus for me.
fancracked: I’ll bet!
sooji: My fandom changed my life. Most of my friends were sharing in my fandom… so that made it easier… but at the same time I was a little hesitant to share everything. Like I mentioned before, I don’t like coming off as bragging because I got accused of that a lot so I had a hard time sharing what I was doing with everyone around me. My family knew I was obsessed with kpop but they had no real idea what was going on. My mom knew though… my mom and I are very close. She spends all day watching k-dramas so she feels me haha
fancracked: hahaha omg ! I know what you mean… Asian mothers and their dramas~~ There is no such thing that can separate the two.
sooji: She’s always been very supportive of my fandom though. Renting videos for me because HOT or Shinhwa was on them. Stuff like that. One of the first “jobs” I ever had was making videos for fangirls who didn’t have access. Like I said, we didn’t have YouTube so my mom would rent a ton of videos for me and I’d copy VHS to VHS all the Shinhwa, HOT, Sechskies, etc. stuff to one master tape and I’d make tons of copies of those and I’d sell them to fangirls all over the world. I only charged S&H and the cost of the tape though… so I could keep making more. I still have a few of the masters. 8hr tapes of nothing but HOT or nothing but Shinhwa. I think that’s something I wish was the same… back then… fangirls tried to help other fangirls. Maybe we were helping because we didn’t wanna be the only crazy ones… but we were always trying to help each other lol We have sub teams now, but before… it was just a random fangirl who did it all and not because anyone asked her to but because she was trying to help. It was fun.
fancracked: You would have been my crowned goddess if I were from back then for sure haha~
fancracked: Can you remember any funny or unexpected moments in your work experience?
sooji: I got in trouble once because some girl… who I thought was my friend was looking at my phone and she totally stole phone numbers so I had to change everyone’s name in my phone… to random other names that I would recognize. bah…
fancracked: TT_TT Wow wow that’s terrible. People really do do the darndest things o_O
sooji: Stuff like that happened to me a lot. People pretending to be my friends. I learned rather quickly not to trust people so fast but it comes with the territory I guess. There’s always a down side… to everything.
sooji: [And] my friend Mia called me an unofficial kpop celebrity at a show in LA… a girl asked if she could take a picture with me. I didn’t know what to say.
fancracked: HAHAHAHAAHAHA that girl was … me… jk jk
sooji: It was like 10 years ago lol There was a lot of …”omg is that Sooji unnie? Are you sure?” I could hear them as I walked past. That’s why Mia called me that. She was there with me laughing at me but I’m glad I had the friends I did… and still have. They definitely kept me grounded. That coulda went really bad [instead.]
— end of Part I. Click here for Part II.
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