The platform works on a grassroots level as opposed to imposing hierarchies; as such, Sarifah and Lee call themselves campaigners rather than founders. Including them, the community is operated by seven people in Indonesia, five in South Korea, and over 20 global ambassadors—fans who help to spread the word and conduct reach-outs. It’s currently funded by Actions Speak Louder, an Australia-based nonprofit global campaigning organization, which allows the likes of Lee to be paid for her work full-time while taking a gap year from her studies.
A mere month after its launch, K-pop4Planet targeted Indonesian e-commerce giant Tokopedia, whose marketing efforts have long relied on major K-pop acts like BTS, TXT, and Blackpink. In its Tokopedia4Bumi campaign (meaning Tokopedia for the Earth in Indonesian), the community urged the company to pivot to using renewable energy in its data centers, delivery services, and offices by 2030.
After one Twitter storm, a sustainability survey, and a campaign to save the beach where BTS filmed their “Butter” music video, the activists are targeting plastic album waste. In spite of the global decline of CD sales, they remain a crucial barometer for K-pop charts and awards—and a popular method of supporting favorite artists in the K-pop world. According to Gaon Music Chart, over 57 million K-pop albums were sold in 2021, a 37% increase from the year before.
On Earth day in April, fans staged a peaceful protest outside HYBE’s Seoul headquarters: dressed as bees, they performed dances to K-pop hits next to a statue made of unused albums and delivered a petition with over 10,000 signatures to company representatives. The next day, they returned over 8,000 albums to the entertainment giants to demand greener album options. This was part of the ongoing campaign No K-pop on a Dead Planet, lead by Lee, which calls on South Korean entertainment companies like HYBE, YG, SM, and JYP to take steps such as adopting low-emission concerts and limiting plastic use in albums.
“We really showed ourselves as fans, and not just individuals but consumers demanding change from the industry,” says Sarifah. Both her and Lee list it as the campaign they’re the proudest of so far.
Granted, the likes of HYBE, YG, SM, and JYP haven’t formally responded to K-pop4Planet’s requests; discussions are ongoing with Tokopedia, but a resolution has yet to materialize. And it can be daunting to call out major corporations as a small, albeit growing grassroots organization. When K-pop4Planet launched, “some fans said they doubted the companies would change, because they have a reputation for not listening to fans and chasing profits,” says Lee.
But Lee and Sarifah remain intrepid. “After the campaign launched, we saw a lot of fans showing their support, saying This is what we’ve been asking for but we didn’t have a platform or power on our own,” says Sarifah. “This was the moment of realization, that though we’re small, fans’ voices really helped us knock on the door.”