Keeping Up With Kim Seon Ho

As Kim Seon Ho’s fame and reputation continue to rise, I take the time to reflect on what it means — as a new fan — to keep up with the man of the hour, on arguably the fastest social media platform today — Twitter.

Since I started following Kim Seon Ho last December, there hasn’t been a day where there was nothing new from his team. I’m not even exaggerating. The last month and a half have been a graceless attempt to keep up with arguably South Korea’s fastest rising star. And although the content is published across a range of networks, including Korea’s native platforms, there’s no place where the sheer volume of media and information is distilled but also magnified as powerfully as Twitter.

Twitter’s structure, after all, affords it that potency. 

Why Twitter?

When I was doing my postgraduate studies, I took the time to research on the social networking site. At the risk of this article sounding like an academic paper, I’ll try to summarize why Twitter is so effective in information dissemination. It essentially boils down to the fact that platform’s imposed limits on character demand users to share information rapidly. Since you can’t write an essay on Twitter, the act of tweeting requires little time, effort, or investment.

Of course, any accompanying media — like an image or video, for instance — may have been produced for a much longer period. But with less than 300 characters at your disposal and the presence of inherent functions like retweets, you’re bound to drive messages forward at almost breakneck speeds.

This is why on Twitter — stan Twitter specifically — it’s easy for content posted on other platforms to seep through. It has become a repository of sorts for every imaginable information. Instagram and YouTube may have the advantage in media quality but it’s not as easy to engage with other users on these respective platforms. On Twitter, users get a better sense of collectivity, regardless if they know each other in real life or not. Simply follow a hashtag or search for a keyword and you’ll easily find other people who share your same interests — or in this case, biases. Discussions are also easier to track, start, filter, and follow.

Despite my studies on Twitter, I never did join the stan Twitter community before. Perhaps later on I can share more about my thoughts on this online collective now that I’m in it. But this article is about Kim Seon Ho, after all, and so I apologize if I’ve strayed a bit so early on. The point is, this guy is everywhere and this ‘everywhere’ finds itself into my timeline.

Signs of superstardom

I can only speak as a fan who started religiously following Kim Seon Ho last December, just as he broke the precipice of the ‘relatively unknown yet talented Korean actor’ sphere and entered into the realm of an international sensation. He had already gained traction a decade ago, largely as a promising theater actor who soon became an ‘idol’ of the stage. But it was only natural a man like him, who possessed so much talent and charisma, would find himself on a platform that afforded a global audience: television.

For three years, he built an impressive resume as a drama actor. Along the way, he would bag a couple of awards and recognition. He would then endear himself slowly to both Korean and international viewers with his stint on the variety show 2 Days 1 Night – a program that continues to be a huge hit among viewers. However, it was Start-Up, the widely talked about drama, that offered him the breakout role.

That isn’t to say he needed the show.

I sincerely believe Kim Seon Ho, one way or another, was bound to be successful because of his acting prowess. He had “it”. And that’s precisely why he got into the show in the first place. But it was his impressive portrayal of Han Ji Pyeong, and the ‘controversial’ way his character was treated by—what I can now safely say—a flawed narrative, that viewers instinctively empathized with him, thereby gaining him even more attention — and four million more Instagram followers. So by the time Start-Up had ended, the mania had only just begun. 

As a popular expression goes, he won the hearts of many.

Kim Seon Ho, King of Content

Today, the same hearts are filled to the brim. From magazine features and viral VLive broadcasts, endorsements to interviews, the Kim Seon Ho fever has been burning steadily and shows no sign of letting up. On Twitter, as I mentioned, it’s overwhelming.

Pubmats and behind-the-scenes from his growing number of CFs are posted every day, almost as if shooting a commercial is routine. So when my real-life friends ask why I freak out in our group chats, I just casually say, “oh well, Kim Seon Ho has a lookbook from his new endorsement but it’s a brand different from the one posted this morning.”

Often, these CFs come out unannounced, without any sign that would have prepared us for the visual masterpieces that they are (except for that not so professional edit of Kim Seon Ho resting his arms on Park Seo Joon’s shoulders). When they are announced, they’re released either simultaneously or in quick succession. 

For instance, an intimate video where he poses romantically as the-boyfriend-you’ll-never-have while wearing Edition Sensibility apparel was released late at night, a few hours after his cameo in Run On came out almost simultaneously with an Elle Korea interview where he played the part of a love guru. Between a much-longed-for return to the small screen and Kim Seon Ho dishing out dating tips, which do you follow? And these weren’t even the only content released that day!

A new commercial, where he revisits Han Ji Pyeong’s aesthetic, has been viewed millions of times just a little over a week after its release. It’s been spliced, GIF-ed, edited and repurposed as high-res wallpapers for our phones. It has also reopened the traumatic wounds of Han Ji Pyeong’s cult followers.  

How can anyone forget the images posted by Kim Seon Ho and his team on Instagram shared on Twitter, too? I don’t even have to open my Instagram app anymore to know if Kim Seon Ho had posted anything new. I simply need to look at my Twitter timeline. If there are the same images posted over and over again, suffice to say, Kim Seon Ho was busy on IG. 

Magazine features also wound up retweeted, quote-tweeted, and liked relentlessly on the platform. His words, on the other hand, are translated, savored, reflected upon. On many occasions, these magazines become new sources of behind-the-scenes photos and videos, too, as if the print medium for all its materiality was not enough to grasp the Kim Seon Ho presence.

There is also the matter of his return to theatre. Live updates of his intense performance on stage leave many stuck on their phones drooling, and contemplating what they’re willing to sell or trade just to fly to Seoul.  Photos of Kim Seon Ho backstage and during the curtain call for the play ICE make the rounds of Twitter, for the not-so-soft stans to die for, and to give international fans more reason to envy their fellow Korean seonhohadas

And of course, there’s 2 Days 1 Night. The fact that it’s shown weekly means, unlike other artists, you’re bound to see Kim Seon Ho’s face once a week, at a minimum. I call it my weekly date with the Nation’s Good Boy and the Nation’s Band of Brothers (or Groomsmen, if you fancy imagining). 

Much of the furor, however, is driven by Kim Seon Ho’s amazing team — the unmatched dedication of Salt Ent, his agency, and the most envied professional team in the world, @kimseonho_staff.diary or KIMSDA, as they’re fondly called. But there’s also the case of his haters, too. 

There’s an inside joke among seonhohadas that every time an anti-fan barks at Kim Seon Ho’s newfound success with any of their lousy arguments we get new content. It’s happened with such regularity that when we actually get new content, we ask ourselves, “Was there a fan war earlier”? In Tagalog, sino na naman nangaway!

It’s the same with his official team. Given the endearingly mortifying way Kim Seon Ho presents himself on 2 Days 1 Night, many of us have come to believe Salt Ent and KIMSDA are swift to try and rescue Seon Ho’s ‘serious’ image after he flails, sticks his tongue out, dances, or makes face in the variety show. But they rarely succeed, given how fast Seon Ho’s comic images spread across the Twittersphere. 

Looking back at when and how these two accounts post, I’m under the impression one of the Salt or KIMSDA staff is lurking on Twitter, trying to detect if there’s a need to drop a new Kim Seon Ho. And when these two do drop something new, Kim Seon Ho has to play fast hands against his fans, adding to the ruckus, as if simply trying to catch up wasn’t enough of a problem that we have to like the posts before he does. Who does that with his fans?

How to keep up, po?

But this is just a recap of the last month. Someone on Twitter said the content we got from Seon Ho the past few days was enough for a year. I’d argue it would already last us a lifetime. How do you keep up with it?

You don’t. You just drown in it. 

We get so much content from Kim Seon Ho that we make content about getting so much content. Sometimes it’s in jest. Other times, it’s a genuine desire to get even the briefest respite, just so we could breathe and take the time to savor (and save) the new pictures, videos, or interviews. How’s your phone’s memory, by the way? It’s a seonhohada problem I heard.

Dramabud likened the whole phenomenon to waves. You have to catch up before the next ripples inundate your entire life. If you’re working, good luck. You’ll spend at least an hour just trying to make sense of all the content released for a day. If you’re studying, I can only empathize with your struggle. But like Seon Ho said, academics first, please.

We get so much content from Kim Seon Ho that we make content about getting so much content.

Even on particularly slow days, there’s something to talk about. If Salt Ent and KIMSDA are busy, we generate the content. Fake CFs, the ones made for fun and which keep the timeline even more exciting, make it increasingly difficult for the seonhohada to determine whether a new CF is, in fact, official. Meanwhile, the forlorn and heartbroken among us stir memories of Kim Seon Ho’s previous drama roles. Masochists that we are, we take the crumbs to create the videos of the narrative we wanted and cried for, the happy ending we still believe we deserved. 

If editing isn’t exactly our forte, we start Twitter threads contemplating Kim Seon Ho’s words of wisdom instead. Or, like me, we write letters or notes — any form or format to satisfy and substantiate our deepest longings and affections for this 34-year old paper doll. And then there are the kind souls who, like office secretaries, take minutes of the content tidal waves: they organize the links and make it easier for everyone else to catch up or drown. 

Sustaining interest

When I asked on Twitter if this sort of activity is typical of Korean celebrities, I got some pretty interesting replies. Dorkyseonho, who is part of different fandoms, shares this is the first time it feels there’s no rest for the fan. Seonhohappy, on the other hand, replied that the last time she saw this kind of presence was with Park Bogum, and we know where that guy is one of the most bankable Hallyu stars today.

From my own experience following the few Korean stars I know, Kim Seon Ho and co’s generosity in terms of content is unusual. With other celebrities, it’s a running joke that they’ve forgotten the passwords of their social media accounts given how rare they post online, and how far in between they get CFs.

With everything that’s been said and done, what does this mean especially for a new fan like me?

First of all, I am genuinely grateful to get all this content. It’s hard to keep up, yes, but I wouldn’t trade it for waiting months before even getting an Instagram post that’s not even a selca. I’m also equally impressed at how hardworking Kim Seon Ho is. The sheer volume of content we get, along with his penchant for competing with his fans, really makes the whole experience memorable.

When I recall what I’ve learned about him as Daehakro idol, I realized it’s always been the same Kim Seon Ho — he’s a man attentive to and familiar with his fans. It’s just that with his big break and the circumstances shaped by the pandemic, it’s been translated to a digital platform. So I guess this kind of behavior isn’t out of character for him. 

But is this a case of simply striking while the iron is hot? Are we getting too much? Is he desperate to make the most of his newfound fame, as some detractors would argue?

No, not really. In the first place, Kim Seon Ho’s not stretching 15 seconds of fame for more than what it is. He’s overcome that barrier already. He’s established his talent and presence in the industry firmly. I’m confident his upward trajectory is just beginning. But I do think — and this is purely my opinion — that he’s making up for lost time. Maybe it’s because people have always pointed out he’s a late bloomer. Maybe it’s just him wanting to live life at the moment, and pursuing all these new opportunities is an act of gratitude — for his parents, friends, and fans. 

Whatever his reason is, I don’t see anything wrong with it. Should he pace himself? Probably. Kim Seon Ho, get some sleep please. But that’s on Salt Ent’s plate already and I don’t have any doubts the agency has anything else but the best interests of Kim Seon Ho and his career at heart. They would know better than a blogger like me who is inclined to look for subtext where there is none.

Who knows, maybe it’s Kim Seon Ho who will finally normalize the idea that a big star doesn’t have to be cold, aloof, and inaccessible. Constant communication, after all, is key to any relationship. I’m glad Kim Seon Ho and the people around have kept him grounded enough to remember cultivating loyalty starts with frequent communication. He probably derives joy seeing our misery in trying to keep up with him, too.

And if this is only because he’s just building up his stature further, I wouldn’t be disappointed. Not one bit. I’ve been spoiled. We’ve all been spoiled. If for some reason or another or another, stan Twitter becomes quieter than how we’re enjoying it now, I wouldn’t take it against him. How could I, when he even edited his Instagram caption to tell us that he knows and he sees? Yes. I think he knows and he sees we’re genuinely happy with all his success. Plus, sometimes, absence does make the heart fonder — just don’t let it be for more than three months before the next selca, please.

As someone new to Kim Seon Ho’s world and the joys of following him on stan Twitter, I couldn’t be any more satisfied. I’m not lying. It’s been a wild ride and cannot wait for how else he’s going to spoil us in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Most of all, I’m happiest to be in the ‘now’, to know that at this moment I can count on someone like Seon Ho to remind me you can buck the trend, and enjoy things for the first time even if a little later than everyone else. It’s even better to share it with a newfound community of strangers on stan Twitter — a group of people who, now and then, challenge my ability to remain a soft stan. Laughs!

But true to what this essay is all about, I’ll have to appropriate Kim Seon Ho’s own words to describe how I truly feel. Maybe that shows the level of understanding we’ve all developed towards him, that we recognize ourselves in his own life story. Like what he said in his Dazed interview,

I won’t forget the feeling of gratitude and keep it intact in my heart. Should I say that it’s like the feeling of receiving a huge gift out of the blue one day? I want to treasure this moment and keep it in my heart.”

Kim Seon Ho, you really are the gift that keeps on giving. Now that’s the tweet.

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