As the years go by, sasaengs (stalker fans) are becoming a bigger and more dangerous problem for K-Pop idols. Alongside tracking idols to their homes and calling them on their personal phones, sasaengs also often stalk idols during airport visits. In a recent “Comment Defenders” interview with AYO, two veteran flight workers revealed some of the extreme lengths they go to.
These days, Kim Soo Dal and Kim Ha Gyeong are both YouTubers, but their careers started out very differently. Both women worked as airline staff for 10 years, with Kim Soo Dal serving as a ground attendant and Kim Ha Gyeong serving as a flight attendant. During that time, they met numerous idols, from EXO and BIGBANG to Girls’ Generation and Rain.
While airport trips are a common way for fans to see their idols up close and take photos of them, there’s no doubt that some take things too far. One AYO commenter brought up how BTS‘s V is afraid to encounter sasaengs while flying abroad. In a past broadcast, he opened up about how uncomfortable it can be when people invade their privacy.
Whenever we fly, whether short or long distance, there are people who found out where we sit in advance. They would sit in front of us or right next to us, and it made us a little uncomfortable. Well, honestly, I wish they wouldn’t do it. It scares me. Really.
Sadly, the problem is one these flight attendants know all too well. Kim Ha Gyeong revealed that some fans bring a telephoto lens camera onto planes to take photos of idols from their seats. “I’d have a panic attack if that was me,” she admitted.
Kim Soo Dal went on to share yet another extreme measure sasaengs use in airports. One time, the ground attendant revealed, a fan gave her a voice recorder and asked her to “record the convo with oppa.” Likewise, she’s heard of so-called fans trying to pay cleaners to take photos of idols. Some sasaengs have even stolen stars’ luggage from the arrivals conveyor belts and opened them to see what’s inside.
Unfortunately, it gets even creepier. When idols use the plane toilets, Kim Soo Dal says that sasaengs go in right after to “smell their body odor“. Even stalkers who don’t make it onto flights have gone to similar lengths, says Kim Soo Dal, following male idols into the men’s toilets in the airport.
But how do sasaengs get so close to the idols to begin with? Since airports have tight security, many fans have wondered how stalkers make it past the baggage checkpoint. One AYO commenter revealed all when they asked the flight attendants a question that made Kim Soo Dal’s head fall to her hands.
When you go to the airport to see your idol, you can just purchase the ticket and take pictures of them then ask for a refund at the boarding gate, right?
— AYO commenter
While Kim Soo Dal stressed that she hopes most fans won’t try this trick, she confessed that many people do. According to the ground attendant, fans buy flight tickets, follow their idols through the Duty-Free shopping area to take photos, then ask for a refund right before boarding.
While this is a common trick fansites use and may not make all idols uncomfortable, it does harm other passengers. “If you ask for a refund in front of the gate,” says Kim Soo Dal, “Somebody else could have taken it, so we’ll just lose a seat like that.” On top of that, since anyone who cancels their ticket after Duty-Free shopping has to go to the legal and customs department to confirm their cancelation, the flight’s take-off can also be delayed.
Ultimately, Kim Soo Dal and Kim Ha Gyeong warned stalker fans against going too far. If the situation is too severe, Kim Ha Gyeong revealed she has no reservations about calling their police. There’s always a plain-clothed police officer on the plane, and sasaengs will be handed over to them if they go too far.
The first priority of the in-flight rules is a passenger’s safety… It doesn’t seem like [sasaengs] like idols. It’s more like harassing them.
— Kim Ha Gyeong