‘Anjeo-ssi’ is a compound word of IZONE and Mister. It is an external term to refer to IZONE’s fandom ‘WIZONE,’ which debuted in 2018 and ended its activities in 2021. Although the words contain the nuance of destruction, what can be known from these words is that WIZONE was a male-cho fandom. Looking at the gender ratio of domestic fan club membership, the male fan ratio was 7~8: 2~3 from the 1st to the 2nd period.
The period when IZONE was active was a transitional period when the gender ratio of the female idol fandom changed from primary male to female. It’s not that there weren’t other fandoms with this level of gender ratio, but what made Wiz One special was its scale rather than the gender ratio. Among the female idol fandoms in Korea, IZone was by far the largest, and IZONE was the group that absorbed the male fandom in Korea into the largest core fandom in the history of K-pop.
If it makes sense to mention a group that has been disbanding for two years, it would be because of this group’s special status in the genealogy of K-pop. Since the birth of K-pop, the male fandom has always been in the light fandom, the ‘public’ position, and the core fandom, which actively purchases and promotes, has been in the shadows as a minority.
If Twice showed the model of a male fandom-type group as a group with the attributes of both a mass group and a fandom-type group, IZ*ONE went further and proved that ‘male fans can be money’ as an entire fandom-type group. It is a group. The structural background that made this possible is ‘DC Inside,’ the largest male community in Korea, which has been the base for fandom activities and influx since.
In the meantime, opinions have been analyzing the significance of IZ*ONE’s existence, but I couldn’t see any views analyzing the group’s fandom personality. What makes WIZ One unique is the place of the community where they live and the nature of the fan community. Most of the K-pop fandom has a network on Twitter. Or gather in fan cafes opened by agencies and official communities such as Weverse, or join general idol communities such as Theku. DC Inside is the mecca of domestic subculture and has many idol-related galleries, but only some fandoms are active with fan galleries there. There might be a reason you don’t want to overwrite DC’s unique anti-social image, but above all, it’s because there’s no sign-up process here, so it’s highly vulnerable to antis coming from outside.
WIZONE gathered in DC because it became popular with the entire male community, and many active users in DC became fans of the show. They settled down in a place called Mnet Gallery, and that aspect continued even after their debut. ‘MGal’ wasn’t an official fan gallery, but it became the most active place among WIZONE communities in Korea. DC’s ‘concept writing’ system provided the convenience of reading information quickly and extensively shared at once, attracting enthusiastic fans outside DC. This place differed from the official fan community because of its complete spontaneity and DC’s unique, carefree atmosphere. Personal discourse through a consensus among men of the same age coexisted with a discourse on fan activities, creating suction power as a complex space of fan community and everyday community.
The problem is that anti-fans have also flowed in along with the fans. In particular, IZ*ONE was a group with many anti-fans at the time of their debut due to the topography of the idol league, and the weakness unique to the DC system aggravated this problem. To prevent this, the autonomy of gallery managers selected from fans was strengthened, and a vertical hierarchy called ‘armband’ was called. It also brought about the side effect of suppressing differences between the company’s group and the manager’s gallery management. This situation also gave the fandom a unified action system and became the force that made it possible to support in an orderly manner. However, by strengthening internal conservatism and collectivism, the position of the majority fandom was absolute, and a closed ecosystem was created where internal self-cleaning did not occur.
The irony that a strong taboo is formed in freely gathered galleries has led to a situation in which derived galleries are continuously pruned in search of another ‘free’ space. Competitive sentiment between individual fandoms is latent in the project group, and antipathy toward the Japanese members is latent as it is a Korean-Japanese collaboration group. Malicious fan galleries that reject certain members due to gloomy subconsciousness have appeared, and the size has grown to the point that they are on the list of DC’s ‘Exciting Galleries.’ ‘Malignant individual fan’ is a universal issue in K-pop fandom culture. Still, there has never been a case in the history of K-pop where the ‘Akgae’ community of a particular group’s fandom came to the surface and absorbed the fandom. Wiz One is a fandom that emphasizes ‘all fans’ as a daily catchphrase more than any other group, but that countless emphasis was an effort to cover up the darkness within the fandom, and there are examples of that degenerating into moral hypocrisy.
The identity and differentiation of WIZONE are not reacting to the guidelines given by the company but moving with a separate decision system, forming a collective culture and intense feelings of attachment to the group. It is hard to find a case where a female idol fandom showed this level of executive power, and many became idol fans for the first time through one. Hence, the culture they formed was more like the community culture of men in their 20s and 30s than the existing idol culture. This was possible because the fandom was hugely united in a single place rather than a network scattered all over the internet. This was once accepted as an unusual phenomenon in the industry to the extent that Hive executives said they were paying attention to IZONE, which may have provided some inspiration. However, this is an exceptional case in which a specific occasion and place are connected to a particular time in K-pop history.
The fandom organization based on the Mnet gallery was a fandom community that showed different possibilities from the existing fan community. Still, the spontaneity in the general assembly was the key, and no reproducibility could be ported. DC Inside’s extreme openness and ‘armband’ that appeared in return need to be more balanced and stable for the fandom culture to operate sustainably. Currently, fandom has become female and globalized in the female idol market, and there are only a handful of male fandoms in Korea. IZ*ONE and ‘Anjeossi’ appeared right before this change was implemented. They are rare species that appeared and disappeared in the process of K-pop evolution, which never existed before and will never happen after that. If there is anything left of them, it will be the ethics of memory, not a universal role model.
After being notified of IZ*ONE’s disbandment, ‘Anjeossi’ began funding for the extension of all 12 members’ activities. It was also an action that demonstrated its unique organizational power with Mnet Gallery as its base. However, it was a one-sided request stemming from lingering feelings for the members favored by most fandom, ignoring their different career paths.
The members of IZONE were scattered, and ‘Anjeo’ was also spread. Some have become fans of Ive Le Seraphim, a member of IZONE members, and in some galleries, malicious fans are still fighting. In some galleries, competition between individual fandoms is replaced by competition among group fandoms. No festival in the world does not end. If today is not to be worse than yesterday, the past should be remembered, not beautified. This is why the K-pop fandom needs history and why it needs ethics.