INTERVIEW: TAE, PT. I

THE BASICS

Name: Tae Hong
DOB: 2/26/1991
Contact information: taeyeonhong[AT]gmail.com
Online aliases: ilovepocky, kitty.kat
Forums most frequented: soompi, ABM, B2R, NLi
Completed fics: too many to name!
Current fics: none.
Additional information: I have been fangirling for way too long for this to be healthy.

fancracked: Hello Tae! It’s great to meet you. (: Can you give us a general introduction about yourself?
tae: Sure, sure. I’m Tae, and I’m a 19-year-old college student studying journalism :)
fancracked: Can you tell us how you got into kpop in general? You mentioned how you started out when you were 11, I think O:
tae: Oh, I actually have been a k-popper since I was a baby. I was born in Seoul, so all I had to listen to was what was on TV and radio, which, inevitably, was stuff like Seotaiji and Goofy and Roora. And then H.O.T. came out when I was around 6 or 7, and that was the beginning of a whole new world for me. I loved Candy — when they would come out to perform it on KBS’s Music Bank back in the day, I would sing along. I bought H.O.T.-themed origami paper and stationery when I was little. LOL
fancracked: Oh wow! That’s so cool! It reminds me of how they said Finkl had Finkl bread O_O
tae: They did! It came with little stickers of members  hahaha
fancracked: It’s amazing how fandom can really be incorporated into anything!!  lol
tae: I feel like H.O.T. was the group that started this crazy fandom culture in Korea though. Before them, you didn’t have these artist-themed objects like alarm clocks and paper and stickers, you know? … By the time my family moved to the States, groups like S.E.S., Finkl and Baby VOX were getting popular too. And I listened to them nonstop. My favorite song back in those days were Finkl’s Ruby and SES’s I’m your girl. You think little children don’t really pay attention to pop music as much, but even in Korea when I was in first grade, when our class would go on field trips everyone would sing these songs in the bus ^^
fancracked: Ooo! Ruby is my older sister’s favorite Finkl song as well ^^
tae:  ahahah ruby is great. I love Ock Juhyun.

I began liking Shinhwa afterwards too. I was about 10 or 11 then, and they were hugely popular. I got my first computer when I was in the 4th or 5th grade…that was the beginning of everything for me. I discovered Soompi very early on when it was still Soompitown (is that right?). I remember the other day I went onto Soompi because I needed to check something and was overwhelmed by all its new features. Back in the day, Soompi was just a simple beginner’s forum. I remember I was member no. 540-something in the forums before the crash of 2005. And now it’s well over hundreds of thousands of members. The huge growth of Soompi is definitely great but also shockingly fast.

I think I began being active at Soompi forums in 2002. I wandered into the fanfic section and loved these stories — I hadn’t ever come across fanfiction before — and started reading as many as I could. I met a lot of great people along the way, too.

I think I started writing a bunch of fics myself. About SES, Shinhwa, and H.O.T., I think. LOL. Everyone wrote fics then. And they used emoticons and terrible grammar and abbreviations. That was my introduction to k-pop fanfiction.

fancracked: What has fandom meant to you through the years? How would you define it based on your experiences?
tae: You know, that’s a really interesting question, because I feel like the definition of a K-pop “fandom” has evolved and changed throughout the years, even in the past 10. When I started “fangirling”, people were very relaxed about their artists. Shinhwa was the big one back then, and, like the rest of the Korean population, I was in love with Minwoo. He was definitely a stand-out in terms of popularity with international fans. But the Shinhwa Changjo weren’t forceful or even hateful. I don’t think I ever saw the term “fanwar” until recently. It used to be that if fans of two rivaling groups fought over something, it would be an individual fight and not a fight representing a whole. Nowadays, I think fanwars have become less individual. Even on places like allkpop or Twitter, you now see fanwars with people complaining about how “arrogant” VIPs (as a whole) are. But there are obviously VIPs out there who aren’t arrogant. In that way, I think that the term “fandom” has become something that refers to a group of people rather than something that an individual person carries within him/herself as a passion and love for a group.

On Soompi back in the early 2000s, people would write fics and make graphics, just as they do now. I remember a lot of the early graphic designers on Soompi — my introduction to Photoshop was seeing these fans’ graphics and icons and banners. Styles have changed, too. It used to be focused on heavy filtering, but graphics nowadays are simpler and less crowded.

There was also a phase that me and a group of girls went through — we called ourselves “Reply Whores”, and that was what we did. We spammed fanfiction threads with thousands of replies a day. Some of us would literally post 2,000 replies in one day. There was a bit of drama with moderators of the fanfic forum.

I think at that time it was linkinpark and another moderator, and before long Soompi had implemented rules about spamming and double-posting. When I look back, we were immature and silly, but at the same time I miss that sense of togetherness and tight-knittedness that groups of friends on Soompi had. A lot of that also had to do with the fact that most people knew each other, because Soompi was a lot smaller back then.

Oh, I forgot to answer your initial question. To me personally, fandom has always been something that’s been a part of my life. I’ve always loved K-pop, and even at those times that I didn’t have a specific “fandom” within K-pop to identify myself with, I loved K-pop as a whole. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that there doesn’t need to be a fandom to have a love for a whole. I just love K-pop, and that is my fandom.


fancracked: In regards to what you said earlier — Filters on photoshop!!
tae:  When people began writing fanfiction on Soompi, the threads didn’t come with fancy posters and PM lists like they do now. They were literally just ‘author’s notes’ and then right to Chapter 1. I remember when the request thread at the graphics forum started getting really big, people began asking for fanfic posters just as they had done in the past with banners and icons. It came about so naturally that I didn’t even notice that by the time I left Soompi, nearly all the fics in the fanfic forum had posters accompanying them.

When I stumbled into the graphics forum in 2002, the graphics being made were still very hastily done. There was just one tutorial pinned at the top on how to remove the background from a picture of a person. I remember the first graphics person I met — Bora. I still keep in touch with her, and she was one of the greats at the beginning. She could do filters like no other person could. As more and more people started coming in, filters became even bigger. Graphics and banners were judged by how much filtering had been done on them. Viv — I can’t remember her username…starlette, I think? She was really popular back then with her light and filter-heavy graphics. Back then, there was some drama amongst the graphic designers on Soompi over copying each other’s ‘style’. When I look back now, it’s silly, but we were all immature back then. People would get into fights about someone copying another person’s distinct Photoshopping ‘style’.

tae: Although solid07 was pretty big, Soompi was pretty much one of the only places on the entire web where people could come together and find similar people with similar interests. And that was great. I will never forget how much time I spent there and all the people I met and all the things I learned.
fancracked: Speaking with you reminds me of Moley ^^;v
tae: lmao Moley read everything. Oh did you know? She was one of the first people I ever met on soompi. She was my only reader for my very first fic LOL

Tons of people have moved on. I’m one of the few who still loves fangirling on forums LMAO I’ll never grow up… I’m definitely different now though. I’m on a lot of fan forums but I never post replies. I don’t even really have time to look through any threads or anything because of school. I just translate for most of them (articles, interviews, things like that at absolutemblaq, b2strising, rocketboxx, royalgna or nolimitinfinite).
fancracked: oh wow!!! I must thank you as a non-Korean/non-Korean speaker. I really appreciate translators and respect them for what they do for us!<3333

fancracked: Can you tell us what led you into the world of fics, and what are a few of your favorite fics
tae: Oh, good question! Let’s see. The first fics I read were things like Kiss the Sky, Black Coffee Talk, What I Did For Love, stuff like that. I think a lot of people got into it that way in the early 2000s, hahaha.
I actually don’t/can’t remember the titles for my favorite fics, but I did have authors I regularly enjoyed. I loved Jaded by linkinpark, kpopchild’s dark fanfics, Alena unni’s comedies (gemmilee), Aramis’s fics, 4tang’s Tainted Memories of Issey Miyake (one of the last ones I finished before quitting Soompi)… I also remember there was an era of translated Korean fics. I met a girl named Susan, who was translating some hugely popular Guiyeoni fics like He was cool and Doraemifasolatido, and I got into those majorly, even bought the actual Korean books. I think at some point I even translated a couple of chapters of one of the Guiyeoni fics for Susan. They were really popular. I actually just remembered this last night, but 49 Days for a Second Chance was great too. I love that one. Most fanfics back then featured Shinhwa, and a majority of them had Minwoo as the lead. HOT fics were dying out by the time DBSK debuted, and after that, DBSK started dominating the Shinhwa fics.

[fancrack’s note: This interview was originally done when 49 Days was starting to get buzz.]


tae: I have terrible memory but I definitely went on Soompi every day to read fics… We all have that fanfic-crazy phase. … OH I just remembered… one of my favorite kpopchild fics is Dark Blue.
fancracked: oooo Dark Blue<33 That fic was intense T_T my sisters and I all read it in one night ^^;
tae: Yes it was! hahaha That was actually one of the fics that the RW spammed heavily in.
fancracked: hahah yes! I remember!
tae: linkinpark was not happy about it hahahaha

fancracked: I’m hopping back to gasoos for a sec but it kind of ties into fics as well ^^;; ~ We tend to talk about male gasoos a lot but female gasoos used to be/still are popular in fics as well… Although 2NE1 and Wonder Girls fics (among other girl groups/gasoos) have popped up on the fic scene, there was a time when it felt like DBSG and other boy groups were way more dominant. Can you tell us about the female gasoos back in the day since you mentioned how you loved SES? ^^
tae: Ah, girl groups. LOL The first fic I read aside from the ones I listed actually featured SES. I had been a big fan ever since I had heard them on my television set back in Korea, and I loved it. The first fic I ever wrote had SES in it. I think a lot of people enjoyed reading about and writing about SES, Shinhwa, and HOT together in those times. Eugene would usually be the main girl, Bada would be her best friend/the sensible one, and Shoo would be the villain. I remember a lot of fics following that format, even with Finkl, Baby VOX, S#arp, and other female artists. When DBSK debuted, most of the fics featured non-celebrity female characters. I don’t know if this was from a lack of popularity of female groups compared to male groups or if it was just the preference at the time. I don’t know what it’s like nowadays, with SNSD and Kara and the Wonder Girls and all, but I think that it makes sense that many fics simply don’t feature female groups prominently in any era, past or present, because fanfic writers tend to be girls who prefer made-up characters falling in love with their idols. That’s just my opinion.
fancracked: hai hai ~ Could you recommend us some SES fics?
tae: Oh gosh. I don’t even know if I remember any of those fanfic names. Just scrolling through Timevault’s library, I saw a bunch with SES listed.

fancracked: I looked around and tried to get as many FFL fics as I could ^^;; Did you go onto FFL/the sofa/other fic places? ^^
tae: I remember the Sofa! Is it still around? Oh god, I miss that place.
fancracked: I believe it’s gone now >_< Kind of sad how ficaholics and other more “recent” forums/communities are gone as well .__.


fancracked: Sometimes I can’t help but be reminded of a fic when I hear a certain word or phrase. Does that ever happen to you? xP
tae: Yes! Totally. In fact, when I hear certain words or phrases, my brain jumps back to not just fics, but K-pop in general. I think it’s because I read so much Shinhwa fanfiction when I was younger, but every time I stumble across ‘short man’, I think of Minwoo… there were so many short jokes about Minwoo. SO MANY. What he could’ve done with shoelifts back in the day…lmao
fancracked: hahahahahaha I know right?!! I wonder if Wannie and Andy would have worn them as well? hehe
tae: hahahaha I used to love Dongwan in fics bc writers would make him the annoying loud guy hahaha he was so funny
fancracked: HAHAHAH omg xP I loved when he would be a health freak, always exercising/recommending healthy food.  I remember this one crack fic on Shinhwa Sarang where he ate too many bananas ?? Or maybe he got Minwoo into eating bananas and then they got fat! It’s been a while now so my memory’s hazy but I really loved that fic!
tae: lmaoooo do you remember lilshinhwafreak? I remember she had this fic and he was so hilarious in it hahahaha

To read Part II, click here.

To read about FFL, click here.

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