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I’ve been a K-pop stan for 13 years—but ‘Begin Again’ is my first live concert

By Hannah Mallorca Published Jun 13, 2022 8:25 pm

SHINee is the second group I discovered after falling in love with K-pop in 2009.

At that time, I’d fallen deep into Girls’ Generation’s trap—claw dancing to Gee and (awkwardly) mimicking the leg dance of Genie. It was the era when Wonder Girls’ Nobody and Super Junior’s Sorry Sorry turned into viral hits overnight. 

It was also the time when K-pop fans hid their love for the genre since they were either bullied for liking something they don’t understand or not loving their country enough. I was accused of the latter back then. 

I was waiting for updates about Girls’ Generation on Arirang when news of SHINee releasing their mini-album, 2009, Year of Us, was in the headlines. Seeing the members’ flamboyant hairstyles threw me off at first, but there was something about Ring Ding Dong that couldn’t get out of my head. 

It’s been 13 years since then. I currently work as a social media and community editor who fangirls over K-pop and K-dramas on the side. Since then, the Korean entertainment industry has grown into a massive phenomenon. Stanning oppas and unnies are cool now. 

I’ve been rekindling my love for SHINee after my “Shawol hiatus” as well. This is why I was ecstatic when it was announced that Key is coming back to the Philippines. This is not the first time he visited the country though, but it’s the first time he’s performing on his own.

Freaking out ‘a little bit’

To be honest, I’ve never been to any in-person K-pop concert in the past 13 years. The last online concert I’ve watched was IZ*ONE’s “One, The Story” and I was an emotional wreck. Much of my fangirling—impulsive merch buys aside—is dedicated to learning every single thing about Korea. This turned out to be effective years later since I’m now considered the “K-pop expert” in my workplace.

The closest thing I had to a live concert was scoring a VIP ticket to EXO’s “EXplOration” concert at the Mall of Asia Arena. Unfortunately, a last-minute change of plans made me sell my ticket. 

So naturally, it was nerve-wracking for me to see at least one member of SHINee in person. I only owned a single album of theirs, but their music and other content were an escape from my fragmented personal life and inner demons while growing up. It was Girls’ Generation that brought me to K-pop but it was SHINee who made me stay. 

Key talking to his Filipino fans.

The list of my favorite groups eventually multiplied by tenfolds, but these two groups are a reminder of how far I’ve come. 

Sadly, not every K-pop fan has the means to see their bias in the flesh. It’s easy to tell them to “save money” but there are many factors why seeing even a glimmer on their faces is close to impossible. In my case, I was too embarrassed to ask for money from my parents. I was also too devoted to school that I didn’t have the time to enjoy myself (even until now). 

It was only when I had a steady income that I started to satisfy my inner K-pop fangirl. And while it’s too late for some—I’m considered an ahjumma (or old) fan after all—it taught me to savor every moment I had with my biases. It also reminded me to be responsible with my money since while every merch is tempting to have, it’s still not worth emptying those hours of hard work. 

Minutes after Key left the stage.

It was all a blur

Featuring SHINee’s Key, NCT DREAM, WEi, and ALICE, the “Begin Again” concert was two hours of pure bliss.

For a moment, I forgot that I was working so I sang every song at the top of my lungs. I even had the chance to meet other K-pop stans who share the same excitement of finally meeting their biases after so long. 

SHINee's Key is real.

Carrie Pascual, who’s been a Shawol for quite some time, admitted that SHINee is home. “With SHINee having regular schedules kahit na pandemic and online lang ang activities, it gave me hope to see them in the future,” she said.

And for someone who’s also an ahjumma fan, Carrie said being an “older” K-pop stan ignites a sense of responsibility for herself. “Being a fan also gives us the inspiration to work harder and save more for future activities. Nahahati ‘yung personal life sa pagiging fangirl but it doesn’t hurt to feel younger once in a while.” 

And it’s true. I may have lost my voice because of Key but I had to remind myself at the concert that I’m technically at work. 

Yet seeing Key onstage, after years of fangirling over SHINee, is the culmination of my fangirl years. I was in a daze for a minute since I can’t believe he was real. His voice is not just a figment of my imagination. Bad Love and Helium—after being obsessed with them for more than a year—actually exist.

Perhaps, this is how it feels to finally see their favorite artists in person. You enter a state of euphoria and disbelief. It’s long overdue, knowing that I’ve been crying over Girls’ Generation, SHINee, EXO, and Red Velvet for years, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

But it wasn’t until Key who joked around with fans begging him to sing Ring Ding Dong and their debut single Replay which made me cry. I felt like I was 12 years old again; going through 360p videos on YouTube and studying Korean till the wee hours of the night. 

“Really? How old are you, guys?” I’m 25 years old, Key. And I’m still madly in love with SHINee.