The presence or absence of lightsticks can make or break a career (Image via Unsplash and Twitter)

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.

Lightsticks are a sign of appreciation (Image via Soompi)
Lightsticks are a sign of appreciation (Image via Unsplash)

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.

A Black Ocean is a very well planned act, is not something you come up with at the last minute. It’s something that harms artists, imagine working day and night to perform hoping for people/ fans to enjoy your stage and you just see: Black, nothing, no light+
00:39 AM · Jan 9, 2020
The Lighsticks are known in kpop: almost all fandoms have an official one, we wave and light our lightsticks to show support, to show love, to show that we acknowledge artist’s work and efforts to perform.
00:40 AM · Jan 9, 2020

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”.

"Fans aren't that toxic before"

Also fans during 2008 dream concert when Girls' Generation is still a rookie and performed in black ocean while SUJU and TVXQ's fans screaming Wonder Girls
09:53 AM · Dec 26, 2020

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.

2) Seventeen

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.

so seventeen experienced a black ocean, way back 2015??at first I didn't believe to this because SEVENTEEN on MAMA 2015 is one of the most iconic performance of them... getting a black ocean is so harsh every kpop groups doesn't deserve this...
4:47 PM · Aug 20, 2020

3) BTS

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.

bts received black ocean way back in 2013-2016, all fans turning off their lightstick in every awarding shows when it's bts time to perform but look at them now, owning the whole kpop awarding shows like their own concert.
9:35 PM · Jun 11, 2020
even bts experienced a black ocean but look at them now-
00:30 AM · Aug 17, 2021
The thing I will always hate in kpop is the “black ocean”. Like it’s okay if you don’t like a group or don’t listen to them but how petty and miserable do you have to be? I just don’t understand. During performances and winning speeches.
2:30 PM · Feb 26, 2022

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.


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