That's Gong Min Ji (Minzy), the awesome and talented maknae of 2NE1.
Confused? We've all been there.
Fanlore can't help you with this one. If you're new to the K-pop fandom and you're not a Korean speaker (like me!) you're going to have trouble finding resources to help you understand the community. The K-pop fandom on Vingle is super friendly (@poojas helped me to create this card). I figured since I'm still learning about this new awesome fandom I could help other newcomers by explaining some fandom terms!
(You can see more cards in my What the Fandom collection here).
In K-Pop, the term “maknae” is very wide spread and is of great importance. It refers to the youngest of the group and plays a huge part in the image of the group. They usually represent innocence and are almost always the cutest and most adorable of the group.
English speakers might be able to relate to this. Harry Styles of One Direction is the youngest member of the band (born in 1994), and he is often characterized by fans as being the most carefree and innocent of the group. Baby Spice (Emma Bunton) got the same treatment in the 90s.
Seohyun (above) of Girls' Generation is the youngest member of the band, and is characterized similarly. It's not as much about the individual person, but their persona as a performer. However, it works a little differently in Korean culture.
(Lee Taemin, the youngest member of SHINee)
"In Korean culture, age is deemed an important factor in almost all areas of life. Generally speaking, the older you are, the better... This is because in Korean, China and Japan among other Asian countries heavily influenced by confucianism, juniors are expected to show reverence to their seniors... Koreans often find themselves called by a title in place of their name and this title is usually tied to their age. Or more specifically, their age in comparison to their friend or the rest of group."
While there is an expectation within English speaking cultures that younger people should respect their elders, there's generally far less emphasis on this kind of dynamic than there is in Korean culture. Part of this is because especially in America, there is an emphasis on new ideas, and breaking away from assigned roles. That's not to say this isn't important in Korea- far from it. It's that these dynamics are understood and thus experienced in a different way.
Krystal Jung of F(X)
The honorifics don't end there of course.
Honorifics are a way of showing respect to people with more experience than you. Unless you're very close to another person, it can be considered rude to refer to them only by their first name. It's similar to the way English speakers use terms like 'Mr.' or 'Doctor', but there's a heavier expectation in Korean culture to use them.
"If you’re younger than person you want to get close to, you use an honorific base noun denoted for brother and sisters or very close people. Oppa (오빠) is the term a younger girl would use when addressing an older guy, because it means ‘older brother’. If the girl is addressing older girl, she would use the word eonni (언니) instead. For guys, they would use the word hyung (형) if they are addressing an older guy, andnoona (누나) if they are addressing an older girl. An older person would address their younger friend as dong saeng (동생). This rule can be broken in cases of formality. For example, say your coworker is younger than you, but has spent more time at your workplace than you have. Since they have seniority, it would be more proper to address them as if they were older in age than you, because they have more experience in this context."
Kpop fans have adopted this way of speaking, incorporating it into the way they refer to their favorite bands or performers (which is why you see so many female fans referring to their 'oppa'). While often age is a determining factor in the way you refer to someone, sometimes a person younger than you has more experience, which means you acknowledge them with a different honorific:
"In Korean, there is also a way to refer to someone who is chronologically younger than you, but who has more experience than you do. Sunbae(선배, 先輩) is a word that refers to people with more experience (at work, school, etc), and hoobae (후배, 後輩) refers to people with less experience. Generally, hoobaes have to use jondaetmal (존댓말, honorific language) to sunbaes, meaning they have to speak very politely and treat them with respect."
Honorifics might be confusing at first, but you'll pick it up!
Kind of like learning a new language, when you enter a fandom sometimes it takes a little while to adjust to the way things are said and done. For example, in K-pop, people generally don't gush about their OTPs, they get excited about their Bias (the performer or group that they like so much they can't be impartial). Fortunately for new K-pop fans, the community is very welcoming and always excited to welcome newcomers, so learning will end up being a lot of fun!
If you liked this card, I have an entire collection dedicated to explaining fandom tropes, memes, and phenomenons called What The Fandom. So far I've focused on Marvel, Sherlock, One Direction, and Teen Wolf, but I'm definitely excited to talk about the K-pop fandom as I continue to grow and understand it more!