What Is a Kpop Black Ocean? (8 Horrifying Black Oceans in K-pop)

Written By Eden

Hi there! I'm Eden, a kpop fan, student and online entrepreneur. I created Cute Frog Creations to help you become the ultimate kpop fan!

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Last Updated on May 28, 2023 by Eden

K-pop groups often face plenty of struggles and challenges as they work toward success. One worst nightmare scenario that kpop idols often try to avoid is the dreaded black ocean.

The term ‘black ocean’ is a familiar one in kpop fan culture. The experience of a black ocean can be demoralizing for kpop groups and their fans and it can even affect the performance of a k-pop group.

Ideally, groups (and fans) never experience a black ocean at a k-pop concert. When this horrible trend does happen, it’s often the result of a kpop fan war or disapproval on the part of fans.

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What Is a Black Ocean in Kpop?

what is a kpop black ocean - bts concert with army bombs
NenehTrainer, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A kpop black ocean happens when members of a kpop fandom (and sometimes, multiple fandoms) turn off their lightsticks during a group’s performance, resulting in dead air. That type of situation can happen when multiple groups share a stage for a concert, festival or awards show.

When kpop groups or idols take the stage, it’s often with the expectation that they’ll be looking out at an ocean of light. That’s because k-pop fans often use light sticks or cheering sticks to show their love and appreciation for their favorite group.

Lightsticks are a symbol of a kpop boy group or girl group and their associated fandom. They light up and glow and audience members bring them to concerts as an act of support.

In the early days of kpop, fans in South Korea used color to show support for their favorite groups. Now all of the biggest kpop groups (and plenty of smaller ones) have their own official lightstick.

While light sticks are meant to be used in a positive way at kpop concerts, they can also be a tool for creating a kpop black ocean. Opponent group’s fans can use a black ocean to show their lack of support for a particular group.

They do that by deliberately turning off their own lightstick during another group’s performance and refusing to do fan chants. So instead of looking out at a sea of lights and cheering fans, a kpop group is met with a dark emptiness instead.

That’s the meaning of black ocean, as it looks as if part of the audience has simply disappeared.

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Why Do Kpop Black Oceans Happen?

A black ocean can happen when fans of other groups come together to show a lack of support for a particular kpop group. This coordination usually takes place through online communities, including social media fanbases and forums.

Again, black oceans are usually associated with shared stages. So if you have a dozen or more kpop groups performing at an awards show, festival, or concert event, the members of one k-pop fandom might decide to use a black ocean to protest the performance of another group.

In the k-pop world, black oceans are often the result of fan wars. When fans of one popular group are pitted against the fans of another for whatever reason, they can use a kpop black ocean to effectively sabotage the concert of that group.

Fan wars don’t have to involve fans of different groups either. Sometimes a black ocean happens as the result of a dispute between a group’s own fans if you have solo stans who disagree with one another.

Related post: What to Bring to a Kpop Concert (20 Things You Must Never Forget!)

How Does a Black Ocean Affect Kpop Groups?

audience at a kpop concert

Being a victim of the black ocean can be devastating for kpop groups on several levels. So why are kpop idols scared of black ocean?

For one thing, it can be hurtful to look out at an audience expecting to see a huge number of fans and be greeted with silence instead. K-pop idols work very hard to put on solid performances and seeing a black ocean can easily make them feel as if that work is for nothing.

Kpop black oceans can also affect the performance of the group negatively.

K-pop idols often feed off the energy of the crowd. A cheering, chanting crowd with plenty of glowing light sticks present can boost a group’s performance while a silent black ocean can put a chill on the entire event.

If black oceans targeting a specific group are common because of an ongoing fan war, that can hurt the career of the idols. While it’s not always devastating, frequent black oceans can lead to a serious crash in a group’s popularity.

When a kpop group begins to lose popularity that can affect things like concert ticket sales, album sales, streaming and voting. In a worst-case scenario, black oceans could theoretically lead to a group’s disbandment.

Related post: First Kpop Concert? 10 Things to Know Before You Go

Worst Kpop Black Ocean Events

Kpop black oceans don’t happen that often but when they do, they’re usually memorable. Here are some of the worst black oceans that have happened to kpop idols over the years.

1. Girls Generation 2008 Dream Concert

Fans of SNSD will tell you Girls’ Generation is arguably one of the best-known girl groups, paving the way for many of the female idols that have reached huge levels of popularity today. But back in 2008, they were a rookie girl band performing alongside Super Junior, TVXQ and Wonder Girls at the Dream Concert. They suffered through a horrifying 10-minute black ocean but in later years, returned to the same concert stage to a huge number of fans.

2. Seventeen at the 2015 MAMA Awards

The Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA awards) are a huge event in South Korea and experiencing a black ocean at the show is the absolute opposite of a terrific situation. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to rookie boy group Seventeen in 2015. At the time, the group didn’t have their own lightstick yet and fans of other groups took it as an opportunity to stage a silent protest. Fortunately, Seventeen was able to move past it and has since built a legion of loyal fans.

3. T-ARA (multiple black oceans)

Girl group T-ARA was approaching the peak of their career when scandal hit. Former T-ARA member Ryu Hwa Young accused other group members of bullying her. That led to T-ARA receiving a black ocean during the World Conservation Congress K-Pop Nature+ Concert in 2012. The group reportedly faced another black ocean in 2015 at the Dream Concert.

4. Lovelyz at the 2015 Pepsi Concert

Lovelyz is another kpop girl group that had to perform through a black ocean. Theirs allegedly happened at the 2015 Pepsi Concert when the audience largely went dark. Rumors hinted that the reason for the black ocean was fans’ disagreement over the inclusion of member Seo Ji Soo. Though some fans who attended the concert argued that the black ocean didn’t happen, as the group hadn’t released their lightstick yet.

5. Twice at Melon Music Awards (2016)

Twice is arguably one of the biggest kpop girl groups and many a diehard k-pop fan has at least one Twice album in their collection. But in 2016, TWice was still relatively new and they experienced a black ocean during the Melon Music Awards. Some said it was done by other fandoms as a protest to their rapidly skyrocketing fame.

6. BTS (2016)

You don’t need to be a kpop fan to know BTS. But not everyone is a BTS fan, as evidenced by the black oceans at the Golden Disc Awards and the Melon Music Awards in 2016. Both black oceans were reportedly engineered by Exo fans who were involved in an ongoing fan war with BTS ARMY. It’s safe to say, however, that BTS recovered given their elite status among kpop groups.

7. Katy Perry at the 2019 Jingle Ball

Katy Perry isn’t a kpop artist but she still found herself the victim of a black ocean. It happened at the 2019 Jingle Ball, where BTS was also performing. Perry made a negative remark about BTS ARMY fans, which resulted in them turning off their lightsticks during her performance. They later turned them back on when BTS fan and collaborator Halsey took the stage.

8. Chen’s performance during SMTown Live 2022

SM Entertainment artist and Exo member Chen received a black ocean during the SMTown concert held in August 2022 at the Suwon World Cup Stadium. Members of Exo’s fandom reportedly turned off their lightsticks when Chen took the stage and the whole stadium lit up again when Exo member D.O. took the stage to perform. The chatter in online communities suggested that the black ocean was the result of Chen’s “reckless” behavior in marrying and becoming a father.

Related post: What Not to Wear to a Kpop Concert (2023 Ultimate Fan Guide)

Final thoughts on kpop black ocean

Kpop groups want to be loved and respected on their own terms but a black ocean can be a major setback to their confidence and even their careers. And witnessing a black ocean as a fan at a kpop concert can be a little shocking, especially if it’s happening to your favorite group. Fans can, however, help to avoid a black ocean scenario by choosing not to participate in this toxic trend.

Have you ever witnessed a black ocean in kpop? Tell me about it in the comments!

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