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In South Korea, K-pop fans have something to cheer (and chant) about again

Kayla Balba at the Stray Kids concert at Jamsil Indoor Stadium in Seoul.
Kayla Balba
Kayla Balba at the Stray Kids concert at Jamsil Indoor Stadium in Seoul.

Concerts and sporting events came back to South Korea this year, but with a caveat: To minimize the spread of coronavirus, no cheering was allowed.

That meant baseball games without crowds making noise — and K-pop concerts without "fanchants."

For the uninitiated, a fanchant is a dedicated script that K-pop fans can do together together during specific songs.

"I think originally it was created by the fans to show the members and the group support during songs," says longtime K-pop fan Kayla Balba. "But now a lot of groups actually do fanchant guides so that you know exactly what to say and when."

"It's mostly so that the fans can be involved in the performance, but it also contributes to the atmosphere of the overall concert."

Balba went to a few concerts earlier this year, but said they had "absolutely no screaming, singing along or dancing or standing up."

Of course, that didn't stop fans from making noise in other ways. Paper folded back and forth makes for pretty impressive sounding clappers and fills the void left by no cheering.

South Korea lifted the cheering ban last month, and fanchants have made their triumphant return.

Balba went to the Stray Kids concert in Seoul and reveled in the comeback.

"There's so much going on. There's people taking pictures, there's people running for freebies, it's like a whole free-for-all. There's just a lot of fans excited," she said from the venue.

The masks may still be required, but cheering and chanting is back in South Korea.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Megan Lim