In K-Pop, the words “dating” and “scandal” go hand in hand, even when there’s nothing scandalous about the couple; that’s because the “scandal” has less to do with the couple’s relationship and more to do with their relationship with the public.
Unfortunately, not all idol couples are created equal. Fan reactions generally depend on a number of factors including: the idols’ popularity as individuals, how long they’ve been in the industry, their age, and how they break the news.
Even their fanbases’ gender ratio plays a key role.
When it comes to dating, a female idol with a primarily male fanbase often faces more opposition than a female idol with a primarily female fanbase. The same goes for male idols with a mostly female fanbase versus a male fanbase.
When news of Suzy‘s relationship with Lee Minho broke, Suzy received negativity from many male fans but mostly support from her much larger female fanbase. This, combined with Suzy’s stellar public image, helped Suzy’s dating news steer clear of “scandal” territory.
Idols who receive the most backlash tend to be at the height of their fame, like Girls’ Generation‘s Taeyeon and EXO‘s Baekhyun were in 2014.
The news came as a shock, to say the least.
At the time, some fans felt Taeyeon and Baekhyun’s relationship was a “betrayal” to their respective fandoms.
i’m sobbing on this saturday morning bc i just remembered that when baekhyun and taeyeon started dating i’m 2014 i wrote baekhyun a letter about how betrayed i felt
— alyssa (@hinatajimes) December 16, 2017
its not about taeyeon dating baekhyun, its about taeyeon and her fans who felt betrayed after the scandal came out (and the oreo post)
— y. (@yoongsinb) June 26, 2014
TAEYEON AND BAEKHYUN DATING ITS NOT THE ONE WHO BETRAYED US, BAEKHYUN'S PROMISES DOES
— Chaerin PH (@chaerinhuntae) June 21, 2014
we're not angry because baekhyun is dating taeyeon, we just feel very betrayed, hurt and it felt like we've just been stabbed in the back TT
— ▪ CHOGIWA ▪ (@milkaegyos) June 20, 2014
On the other hand, backlash also happens when an idol is at the height of their notoriety. News of HyunA and Pentagon E’Dawn‘s relationship broke following a slew of negative responses to HyunA’s provocative interactions with her Triple H members.
Plenty of netizens, especially Pentagon fans did not take the news well. They were so severely disappointed, in fact, by this “scandal” that they abandoned an official fan club launch event.
When K-Pop veterans (even ones with massive followings) start to date, they receive far more positive reactions than their younger counterparts do. Fans expressed an outpouring of support for BIGBANG‘s Taeyang and Min Hyorin when they revealed their relationship.
Idol couples also receive less criticism if fans already “approve” of the match. Many Kai (EXO) and Krystal (f(x)) fans had begun shipping this couple before they even began dating. Needless to say, these fans were thrilled when their OTP became reality…
…and heartbroken when it ended.
The same goes for Girls’ Generation’s Yoona and Lee Seung Gi. Both stars were (and still are) beloved by the public as individuals and were loved as a couple before they even started dating.
Lee Seung Gi had named Yoona as his ideal type for years, and fans loved watching their adorable interactions with each other.
This is also true for celebrity couples who fall in love on set. Fans are more likely to approve of the real-life romance if they’ve already fallen for the on-screen one.
In a sense, many fans simply want to be involved in some way, shape, or form. This is one of the reasons why We Got Married was such a hit; fans were able to get to know their bias’s “spouse” as the romance blossomed.
For example, if this headline had read “Sungjae Revealed To Be Dating Red Velvet’s Joy” fans may have reacted differently than they did to the news that Sungjae was allegedly dating Jooen.
While it may seem unfair that some idol couples are met with open arms and others are met with pitchforks, that’s just the way it is.
Idols can try to maintain a positive public image and break their dating news gently but, in the end, the public decides if that news will be deemed a “scandal” or not. It’s up to fans to even the scales!