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How America’s Exo superfans assemble online.
Fans run their own blogs devoted to the group, or often just one member in particular. Most people choose to run these blogs for their own enjoyment, but among them are a select few who fervently blog as a DIY news service for their fellow Exo-L—the official fan name for the band’s devotees. These Tumblr users voluntarily run dedicated fandom blogs for the sake of the avid following, such as the admins of a popular Exo fan blog KMexoplanet.
From the blog’s description, KMexoplanet is run by four North American admins who will “spam your dashboards and share [their] love of Exo!”
For the uninitiated, Exo comprises of nine Korean and Chinese men in their early 20s who continuously capture the hearts of girls everywhere. The group debuted in 2012 with 12 members originally, but have since became nine after the departure of three Chinese members, Kris, Luhan, and Tao.
Exo continues to foster a strong fan base as their popularity grows, drama notwithstanding. In 2013 Exo released XOXO Repackaged, featuring their hit single “Growl,” and became the first K-pop group in the last 10 years to sell a million copies of their album. They consistently rack up millions of views on their music videos within hours of release and participate in various endorsements, including their recent deal with Disney Korea as official Star Wars: The Force Awakens ambassadors.
But Exo have only been stateside twice—both times to make an appearance at Los Angeles’ annual K-pop convention, KCON. That hasn’t stopped them from gaining ground in the U.S. They have placed on nine different Billboard charts, including the Billboard 200. They even caught the attention of American actress Amanda Seyfried when she sang a line from “Growl” on a Korean talk show.
They successfully completed their first concert tour in Asia last year. The boys will be touring in North America early next year for the first time.
This is particularly exciting for a fan blog—a chance for admins to finally see Exo live and up close in concert. As Exo’s company, SM Entertainment, doesn’t usually bring its artists to North America, the imminent tour seemed like a pipe dream when college sophomore Cat Hicks (known online as Admin Cat) created her fan blog KMexoplanet in 2012.
The blog saw its inception during Exo’s teaser era. Before their debut in April 2012, SM Entertainment released a total of 23 teaser videos, previewing the talents of the original 12 members. It was the 12th teaser that inspired Hicks to create KMexoplanet.
“We started around pre-Exo debut,” Hicks said. “We just [wanted to] make a place where Exo fans can come together and just talk and express their thoughts with everything that’s happened with Exo.”
Today, KMexoplanet’s following boasts well over 10,000, having gained some major traction since day one.
Hicks started the blog with two of her friends, and after watching the video, struggled to come up with a name. They settled on KMexoplanet to represent the two subgroups: Exo-K, which promotes in Korean, and Exo-M, which promotes in Mandarin Chinese. They combined that with “exoplanet,” which the group shortens to “Exo.”
With the original intent of starting a simple platform for Exo-L to come and gush about the Exo boys, Hicks never expected for it to blow up. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be stupid if one day we had 10,000 followers?'” Hicks joked.
Today KMexoplanet’s following boasts well over 10,000, having gained some major traction since day one. “We got like 100 [followers] the first day we opened, which I think is really telling of Exo’s popularity because they hadn’t even debuted yet.”
“A blog is not a fan site,” Hicks specified. “I would tell [followers], ‘No, we’re not a fan site. We’re not doing anything official or anything.’ The fact that people see us in that way… it’s almost kind of burdensome.”
According to Hicks, fan sites primarily exist to spread information to fans, but don’t necessarily provide any kind of platform for them. Instead, her site focuses on publishing information constantly, including concert schedules, celebrities’ social media updates, new releases, shots of the stars out and about, and pretty much any other related content.
“Our blog wasn’t supposed to be that way, but it turned out that way when people started asking us [for that information],” Hicks explained.
To serve those demands, the admins reblog from Tumblr’s most popular F-yeah Exo blog and answer whatever questions they can. It’s fan service, and they’re expert delegates for their favorite band.
“We do operate similarly [to fan sites] in the way that we relay information to fans and keep them updated with the group’s activities,” Meg Callum, KMexoplanet’s Canadian admin, said in an email.
But limited access to the group poses another issue for a blog run on the opposite side of the world. Unlike Korean fan sites, American sites almost always have to admire from afar.
“American fan sites are just free.”
“We definitely don’t have the same level of access that some Korean fan sites do to the idols, though, as we don’t have any affiliation or direct contact with SM Entertainment,” Callum said.
In Korea, fan access isn’t hard to come by. They can often see their idols walking in the streets or performing.
“There’s a big difference between an American fan site and the Korean K-pop fan site, where [Korean] fan sites are more toward taking photos of their favorite members,” Hicks described. In addition, fan sites in Korea can vie for profit off their fan shots by selling prints.. “American fan sites are just free,” she added.
For some reason, gaggles of fans interpret that as a lack of dedication on the American side. “Well, you know what? International fans too—we still buy their albums and support best way we can,” Hicks responded.
KMexoplanet supports the members of Exo in more ways than one, including standing behind them when members Kris, Luhan, and Tao decided to part from the group. “We also had decided on the day that it was announced that Kris filed a lawsuit against SM Entertainment that we would continue supporting any member who chose to leave or stay,” Hicks said. Many K-pop fans view idols with a “once a member, always a member” mindset, regardless of whether they stay in a group or not. With that outlook, Hicks said the admins felt obligated to follow the three’s solo activities and to always host an open ask box for their followers to discuss their thoughts and feelings around them.
While Kris, Luhan, and Tao fans are thankful for this decision, not all of KMexoplanet’s followers feel the same way. “Even today we get criticized by some users through our inbox that we shouldn’t post photos and things about the ‘members who betrayed EXO’,” Hicks said. But as 20-somethings, Hicks said the admins understand that every story has two sides when it comes to boyband breakups. “I think because we had this leveled view, we were able to handle the negativity better and also give some of our followers something to really think about,” she said.
Even with the influx of questions and criticism, at the end of the day, KMexoplanet is a haven for Hicks and the other admins. “We look at it as our place for peace.”
Photo via KMexoplanet/Tumblr
Sherry Tucci is a fandom reporter who specializes in Korean pop culture and anime. In addition to her work at the Daily Dot, her reporting has appeared in the Daily Texan.