What does a Black Ocean mean in the K-Pop world?
Being in a K-pop group comes with its fair share of trouble, but encountering a ‘Black Ocean’ is perhaps the most dreaded of them all.
The fans are what make or break a performance, and K-Pop is no stranger to this. While the enthusiastic approval of the audience acts as encouragement for the performers, their disapproval often leaves performers dejected.
There are various ways for K-pop fans in particular to demonstrate their appreciation during live performances, the most favored ones being light sticks. Each K-pop fandom has their own light stick. These light sticks,when lit, often light up the stage, and the performers, in a colorful glow. A lit up stadium is often what a K-Pop group’s popularity is measured by.
However, the audience often make use of these same devices to air their displeasure towards the performance. This is what is called the Black Ocean, the reverse of the ocean of light.
How does a Black Ocean affect a K-Pop group?
A Black Ocean is a popular trend, where the audience turn off their light sticks and phones to demonstrate a lack of support to the particular artist or group performing on stage. The turned off light sticks make the normally lit audience section dark, giving the illusion of a ‘Black Ocean.’ Apart from discouraging the idols, such an ocean is also considered a permanent black spot in the career of the idols.
The reason why this form of protest usually takes place is rivalry between the fandoms. In concerts where multiple groups perform, fans of one group have, in the past, chosen to turn off their light sticks, shrouding the stadium in darkness. Even inter-fandom wars and the presence of solo stans have resulted in these moments of darkness.
Famous groups that have encountered a Black Ocean
1) Girls Generation
In 2008, Girls’ Generation, when it was still a rookie girl band in South Korea, encountered the dreaded Black Ocean. The mega popular group was performing at the Dream Concert along with many other popular groups, including Super Junior, DBSK and Wonder Girls. However, being the rookies, Girls' Generation had to face a horrifying 10-minutes “black ocean”.
Girls' Generation finally came back to perform at the Dream Concert in 2013, and instead of the disheartening darkness, their performance was greeted with cheers and accolades, confirming their position as the most popular girl group in South Korea.
Seventeen encountered one of these moments of darkness when they were rookies. At the 2015 MAMA awards, the fans of the other groups performing decided to turn off their lightsticks. Since fans of Seventeen, given the group’s newness, did not have lightsticks, the stadium plunged into darkness.
BTS is without a doubt the most popular K-pop group, if not the most popular band, in the world right now. Surprisingly, the super talented group also encountered a Black Ocean, while performing at the Melon Music Awards. According to many in the audience, fans of another K-pop group EXO, chose to turn off their lightsticks while BTS was performing. The act led to a fan war between EXO-Ls and ARMYs which lasted for several days, with many EXO-L’s claiming that it is revenge for all the times ARMY members have done it to EXO.
While moments of darkness may appear inconsequential, it can have damaging effects on the careers of groups. While the idols mentioned above were able to overcome the phenomenon and reach new heights, hundreds of other idols have failed, all due to the dreaded ocean.