ONE of the major casualties in the global COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic is the live entertainment industry. For K-pop in particular, concerts, music shows, and festivals, and fan meetings — whether on a grand scale or even the relatively small and intimate ones — are temporarily on hold as the world still grapples with how to keep the virus at bay. Given the consistently high demand for Korean entertainment and content, agencies and brands have joined forces to continue to stage events — but the medium has shifted to online.

Over the weekend, telecom giant Globe staged a virtual fan meeting with Stray Kids, one of the fastest rising K-pop groups formed by JYP Entertainment. The fan meet was shown through the live video streaming app, V Live.

The eight-member band was scheduled to perform in the country for the Manila leg of its District 9 Unlock World Tour, which was initially rescheduled from April 25 to June 20, but thereafter postponed to a later, though unspecified, date. It would have been their second major concert in the Philippines, following their successful Unveil Tour: “I am…” in Manila in April 2019.

“It’s really thrilling and exciting to be able to see Stays (their fandom) even if online,” said  Stray Kids member Hyunjin. “We can’t see each other face-to-face but having this kind of opportunity through Globe to see each other virtually is heartwarming and touching at the same time.” Aside from Hyunjin, four other Stray Kids members, namely, Lee Know, Felix, Seungmin, and I.N joined in the fun. The other members — Bangchan, Changbin, and Han — were unable to attend due to prior commitments. Hosted by Korea-based Filipino actress and emcee Cherish Maningat, the fan meeting was divided in two parts. The first segment ran for 30 minutes and was streamed for free. More than 122,000 fans accessed the site. The second segment, also for a little over 30 minutes, was exclusive for fans who had won access codes to the event from KmmunityPH. There were also 30 pre-selected fans whose faces were flashed on an LED screen, with five of them given the chance to play a game with the 2018 Rookie Artist of the Year.

There were the usual question-and-answer portion, games, and even a photo opportunity with the Stray Kids but only through the screen. Online fan meetings do not evoke the same kind of euphoria as a physical encounter where a “high touch” is a common perk. To compensate, some organizers throw in one-on-one video chats for some paid fan meets. For this event, a performance was excluded from the program.

The Stray Kids said that the global health concerns have also affected their activities. However, they make the most of their downtime by working on new songs, taking on new hobbies such as boxing, and listening to their favorite music including that of actress-singer IU. They added that taking selfies and posting them online also help keep their happy disposition.

“I really want to have our own concert soon,” said Lee Know, who was gifted with a surprise video for his 22nd birthday on Oct. 25.

“We look forward to visiting again our fans from other countries, including those in the Philippines,” I.N added.

To the delight of the fans, Stray Kids played a game where they guessed some Filipino words as depicted by the photos shown by the host. In the second half, the members partnered with five fans in a relay game.

During another Q&A round, Seungmin said receiving a lot of love and support from people around is the best part of being an “idol.” For those dreaming of becoming musicians like them, Felix also advised that “finding their passion” is key.

In a special video message, fans said they cannot wait for Stray Kids to return to the stage for a live performance. Meantime, they will content themselves with watching the group online as well as enjoying their music videos.

While it may still take time before we all enjoy another live concert experience, fans will have to make do with online events. Under the new normal, “stanning” (being a fan) has inevitably transcended the conventional and the physical to a wider, though much less engaging, virtual medium. — CMSV