Since the backlash that ensued after aespa’s Karina and actor Lee Jae Wook announced their relationship (and their eventual breakup) in 2024, social media users are calling for change within the K-pop fandom. Keep reading to understand why K-pop idols often can’t date.

Why Can’t K-Pop Stars Date?

It’s not that K-pop idols can’t date (although, some actually aren’t allowed to), it’s not a common practice in the K-pop industry due to the intense fan culture and the desire to maintain a certain image. Many K-pop agencies have strict rules and even “dating bans” to preserve the fantasy and romantic appeal of the idols to their fans.

What’s more, dating “scandals” oftentimes impact not just the idol’s popularity, but also the success of their group. While the practice is controversial, it’s been an aspect of the K-pop community for years — however, change may just be coming sooner rather than later due to a recent dating “scandal.”

In February 2024, Karina of aespa, and actor Lee Jae Wook were forced to confirm their relationship after a report made by Korean outlet Dispatch revealed that they were dating.

Following the announcement, both stars faced intense fan backlash. Karina received the brunt of the hate, as “fans” even drove a protest truck outside of her label to express their outrage, which included an electronic billboard that read: “Is the love given to you by your fans not enough?”

The widespread reaction caused the K-pop star to issue a groveling apology to fans, where she vowed “to heal the wounds” she had inflicted.

“I apologize for surprising you greatly,” wrote the singer, while pledging to show fans a “more mature and hardworking side” in future.


Karina from Aespa had to apologize for having a boyfriend… #karina #karinaaespa #aespa #boyfriend #apology #zachsangshow #zachsang #danzolot #cameronlouis #fyp #foryou @Dan Zolot @Cameron Louis @Zach Sang

♬ original sound – Zach Sang Show

Following all of that, things between the two Korean artists didn’t last very long — as both Lee and Karina’s labels announced their split on Tuesday, April 2.
“Actor Lee Jae Wook decided to break up with Karina to concentrate on work. The two of them will continue to support each other as colleagues working in the same industry,” said Lee’s agency in a press release, with SM confirming the split.This incident isn’t an isolated one — as it’s a quick insight on the reality of K-pop stars personal lives being dictated by “super fans” in South Korea. However, now more than ever, there have been discussions about the need for change within the industry to allow idols more freedom in their personal lives.One TikTok user wrote, “Obviously those aren’t true fans,” while another posted: “This needs to stop kpop stars are human too!!!!”

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