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An Invisible Weapon Disguised as Fans' Love: RPS

On January 10th, a rapper named Son Simba posted a story on his Instagram to ask for punishment for RPS users. RPS is an abbreviated term of Real Person Slash, which refers to make-believe novels or cartoons based on love between male entertainers. The petition about RPS gained consent from over 200,000 people, and it became a hot issue. Before the advent of RPS, fan fiction, secondary creations made by fans for celebrities, emerged as a kind of fandom culture. Fan fiction, however, has changed to RPS, and serious sexual objectification and insulting in RPS have become huge problems. Accordingly, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) will introduce the history and issues regarding RPS and the efforts that could be made to encourage a desirable fandom culture.

History of RPS

The Roots of RPS

In the late 1990s, first-generation K-pop boy and girl groups such as H.O.T, Sechskies, and Shinhwa appeared, and huge fan clubs began to emerge, which became known as fandoms. At that time, novels featuring members of K-pop groups as the main protagonists were written in various fan clubs, and this “fan fiction” became very popular among fans. Most fan fiction illustrated love between members and fans at first, but they slowly changed into love stories between members. These fan fiction stories became the roots of Real Person Fiction (RPF) and Real Person Slash (RPS) that will be introduced later. These have formed a sense of belonging among the fandoms and have become a kind of subculture. In the early 2000s, as internet novels reached their golden period and the number of K-pop boy and girl groups increased exponentially, the number of fan fiction stories also increased. Among them, RPF novels based on fictional love only between members, regardless of gender, were created, and the public also viewed it as a subculture. In 2006, a K-pop group TVXQ and SM Entertainment held the TVXQ Fan Fiction Contest as an event for fans, and they picked the best novel to use for the TVXQ’s dramas. Also, in 2013, a comedy TV program, Infinite Challenge, portrayed G-Dragon dating Jung Hyung-don in a special song festival. Likewise, a mild level of RPF was enough to be recognized as humor like a bromance (a very close friendship between men), and it was also helpful in maintaining and raising the popularity of K-pop group members.

A Ven Diagram of Fan fiction, RPF, and RPS

RPS: How the Problem Snow-balled

Fewer mixed-gender groups exist nowadays, so novels and cartoons that describe the love between same-sex members increasingly dominate except for a few comical fan fictions. The word RPS refers to a love story only dealing with male entertainers. “Slash” was used as a word indicating the relationship between two men. For example, if “Fish” and “Chips” are names of the male members, “Fish/Chips” means the love story of Fish and Chips. Many people confuse the term RPF and RPS, but RPS only refers to the love story between male members, while RPF is a relationship between real members regardless of gender. The sexual level of RPS is gradually rising, and some serious RPS works have begun to sexualize the boy members, for example, by describing them through sexual expressions or even through rape. These highly sexual RPS works are openly shared on social networks or even sold at an online creative writing platform called Postype. Considering this situation, the petition uploaded on January 11st gained consent from over 200,000 people only after four days, which indicates that many people empathized with the issue.

Severe Problems of RPS

Ethical Problems: Ruining Entertainers Both Mentally and Physically

Given that most members of K-pop boy groups are under 25 years old, members who are in their 20s or teenage members are mostly the targets of RPS. If they experience serious sexual objectification from a young age when their set of values are not fully grown yet, RPS can leave trauma in their life. People who justify sexual RPS use search prevention methods to prevent their celebrities from noticing their existence in RPS works. They appear to be navigating around search prevention by changing one syllable of Hangul or letters of the alphabet that look similar to the original letter. For example, in the case of BTS, RPS users change the name of a member such as Jungkook to “Jung lcook”. This kind of private way, however, cannot justify their wrong behaviors. A dance trainer who taught trainees in entertainment companies revealed on his YouTube channel that trainees’ companies forced their members to act with certain homo-sexual mannerisms towards each other. If fans start to write RPS scenes between a certain two members, the entertainment company starts to force those members to act or make scenes like a couple on purpose. It is an ethical problem to exploit emotions to create situations like novels written by fans while ignoring members’ opinions for the sake of popularity and money.

Another Example of Search Protection (Bald)

Legal Problems: Difficult to Punish RPS Users

On January 16th, a lawyer from YTN News revealed that in the case of sexual objectification of teenagers, RPS could be treated as obscene documents under criminal law. In addition, the Information and Communication Network Act indicates that if someone posts RPS into a public space, criminal punishments may be imposed for distributing and selling obscene documents and videos. In Article 14-2 of the Special Act on the Punishment of Sexual Violence Crimes, however, the range of punishable contents is limited to films and videos. Therefore, the law is ambiguous to treat comics and novels of RPS as the contents of sexual crimes. In the case of insults or defamation, punishment cannot be imposed without a direct lawsuit of the entertainers or entertainment companies. But it is hard to sue their fans because they might lose their popularity and fame. Moreover, if RPS users use pseudonyms, the punishment is more challenging.

Everyone's Efforts for the Proper Fandom Culture

No More Bystanders in Entertainment Companies!​​​​​​​

In the past, entertainment companies deliberately held events to further attract fans’ attentions, but there should be no pressure in confirming entertainers’ opinions. Companies should know that the popularity gained by directing scenes in the RPS only temporarily exists and that it will bring a negative effect when the problems continue for a long time. Hence, they should recognize that their inappropriate direction causes more serious RPS that could harm their entertainers in the long term. Strict measures such as suing should be done in cases of sexual objectification for their entertainers. Their active censorship and treatments can save both companies and entertainers.

Entertainment Companies' Compelling Raw Deal (chosun.com)

No More Wrong Expressions!

Fans should perceive the difference between sexual RPS and secondary creations like fan fiction. Sexualization in excessive RPS will hurt the entertainers in various ways, and fans should be aware that entertainers are also people, just like them. No one has reasons to be sexually objectified by others. In addition, by clearly distinguishing make-believe fictions from reality, fans should not ask for words of a sexual nature, actions, or excessive requests to entertainers. Fans should also report when excessive RPS postings are uploaded onto sharing platforms, and they should not consume serious RPS works. These courageous actions can be done only by fans, and these will protect the entertainers they love.

No More Victims with Strict Regulations!

In sharing platforms where RPS novels are mainly posted such as Twitter or Postype, the uploaded content must undergo essential censorship when targeting real people. When the number of reported RPS exceeds a certain amount, strong treatments such as legal punishments after examination are required. As the RPS is becoming controversial in overall society, it is necessary to prevent it from spreading to gender conflict. People must recognize that it is a crime committed by some people having wrong perceptions in some fandoms, not by a specific gender. Moreover, people should work together to punish and resolve the problem. On January 15th, Ha Tae-keung, a congressman of the People Power Party, announced a revision of the law to punish RPS such as adding webtoons and novels to the subjects of sexual violence crimes. Like this, it is necessary to prevent further victims by constantly revising relevant laws.

RPS has had a great effect on our society, but it has become just a game of chicken among inappropriately given information although a fundamental discussion is needed. If the fans really want their supporting entertainers to be happy, they should put the effort in to act after thinking once more.

양희태  yht0648@g.skku.edu

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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