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Snatchers target Filipino K-pop fans over misconception of photocard value

By Ratziel San Juan Published Mar 07, 2023 5:51 pm Updated Mar 08, 2023 8:49 am

The Filipino K-pop community has sounded the alarm on recent theft and other threats related to photocards due to a mistaken notion that these usually cost P50,000 or more on average. The standard album photocard usually ranges from only $4 to $8 (P220 to P440).

Photocards are laminated, usually palm-sized photographs starring selfies of individual members of K-pop groups. These photocards are obtained from K-pop albums that contain different versions, combinations, themes, and even the members featured.

"Because of the entirely randomized nature of photocard distribution, fans will open albums with bated breath in hopes of getting a photo card of their favorite member: the K-pop equivalent of playing the lottery. Over the years, fans have created one of the most zealous collecting subcultures around these limited-edition cards," the Berklee College of Music's Music Business Journal wrote.

Just like everything else in the real world, the price of photocards is ultimately based on market factors. According to the popular blog Kpopforfun, the price of a K-pop photocard depends on what kind it is, its quantity of production, the cost of an album, and supply and demand.

K-pop fans recently took to social media to report incidents of theft, harassment, and a general feeling of unsafety lately. Specifically, they attributed these to the latest episode of GMA's Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho (KMJS), which they claimed was misleading, stigmatizing, and borderline unethical.

The said show's case study was a senior high school student, codenamed "Bea," who reportedly stole over P2 million from her grandmother's store to buy K-pop merchandise. This was apparently used to purchase her P2.7-million K-pop collection that includes 3,000 photocards including three that supposedly cost P50,000 each.

While the report mentioned the maximum amount paid for by the case study, it didn't mention the average price that photocards usually fetch in K-pop trading circles.

Who pays the price?

Longtime K-pop fan Jazrene Gonzales said the aforementioned segment affected her and her fellow Pinoy K-pop supporters in more ways than one. "The biggest factor, I think, was to put in jeopardy our safety while we're outside," she tells PhilSTAR L!fe.

The ReVeluv (Red Velvet fan) said that it's common for K-pop stans to proudly display their merch, specifically photocards, in top loaders with sleeves that they hang on their bags for decoration.

"Now, because of this irresponsible move, there have been reported cases in the Philippine K-pop community that some collectors experienced robbery incidents of these hanged photocards decorations while they’re inside public transportation. Mind you that many of these people are minors," Gonzales shares.

She knows of cases, including that of her friend, where K-pop fans transact in popular buy-and-sell groups only for riders and other intrusive people asking the value of a parcel's contents and whether the photocards are "legit" or "official."

"That [show] has created an unfair stigma and misconception about these merchandise and collectors, especially the generalized pricing of these photocards that they anyhow said could be worth around P50,000 alone. It’s very far from reality, most of the usual official photocards could only be worth P50 to P500," Jazrene said.

Room for rectification

Gonzales, who is a campus journalist and a member of the Union of Journalists of the Philippines-UP, likewise criticized the said magazine show's reportage.

"As a journalist myself, it’s a huge disappointment as this whole report/episode failed to ensure the accuracy of every piece of information they broadcasted. I do get and appreciate their goal to spread 'awareness' to be a responsible collector and fan, but the way they showcased it puts all K-pop fans into a bad light that we have been sadly experiencing since then," Gonzales laments.

She echoed discussions online that the reported subject matter could have been privately dealt within the family: to protect the minor’s identity and mental health, due to the potential consequences involved, and because of the lack of "extensive research" about the on-ground reality of Filipino K-pop collectors.

The student, along with different Filipino K-pop community groups, seeks clarification from the said show since it "really leads every collector into danger and judgment not just in the eyes of their own family, but as well as the snatchers and robbers for thinking that a single photocard could really cost up to five digits."

"This episode generally put K-pop fangirling/fanboying as something negative, irresponsible, and stupid in the eyes of many who don’t really understand what’s inside our community. We demand a public apology from the show and assigned researchers for this irresponsible, generalized, and overly exaggerated story that put our mental state and safety at risk," Gonzales concludes.

To educate, not to condemn

For its part, KMJS has released a statement on Facebook about the matter and explained the steps it took to address the stealing incident that allegedly took place in MRT-Cubao.

Contrary to reports, the show noted that officers of the train station and the police did not receive any report on stealing incidents involving K-pop photocards in the last 48 hours. "Gayunpaman, hinihikayat nilang mag-report sa kanilang tanggapan ang mga nagpakilalang biktima, o sinumang may katulad na insidente para magawan ng aksyon," it said.

KMJS urged everyone to refrain from attacking "Bea" and revealing her family's identity. It also revealed that they have been working with their legal team to reprove netizens "trolling and harassing" the episode's creators.

The show stressed that its March 4 episode, after all, was released to educate its viewers instead of condemning anyone.

"Tulad ng ibang mga kuwentong itinampok sa KMJS, ginawa namin ang istorya ni 'Bea' hindi para manghusga, pero para magsilbing aral at babala. Walang intensyon ang programa na makasakit, makapahamak ng iba, o magkaroon ng pagkakahati-hati," it said.

While the show seemingly reported the price of photo cards out of context, it also interviewed a humanities and social experiment professor who said that K-pop fans tend to purchase photo cards as it gives them a sense of belongingness.

It also featured an interview with a psychologist who identified the teenager's condition as an impulse control disorder, noting that it can still be treated.

At the end of the day, the teenager featured in the documentary said she regrets stealing millions from her grandmother. She also told fellow K-pop fans that although there's nothing wrong with buying their idols' merchandise, it is right to set limits on it.