K-Pop music, pins help collector to “stand up tall”

There’s K-Pop enthusiasts—and then there’s Hang Nguyen.

It’s taken the 28-year-old less than a year to amass her collection of over 230 pins, all of which are somehow related to Korean Pop music. (And that’s not including the 23 additional pins she recently ordered that are currently still on their way to her mailbox.)

“I started collecting them because the art was really beautiful,” she said “The first pin I bought was from (the artist) HAPPIPOP—it was just so beautiful l that I had to have it. And once I got it, I noticed that she had more. I just kept on going with it—because I loved the art. And now I have another thing to show people who I am. I’m not really normal, but this is what I like. This is who I am.”

Hang Nguyen, 28, is very proud of her collection of nearly 250 enamel K-Pop pins

K-Pop first become popular in Korea in the 1990s, but in 2012, the mainstream United States got its first taste of the music with PSY’s “Gangnam Style.” The song became a smash hit, topping Billboard music charts and becoming the first video ever to reach one billion views on YouTube.

The genre is generally known for dance-worthy, synthesized music, elaborate choreography and outlandish, colorful outfits. Groups are more popular than solo performers and lyrics are usually in Korean. But, the language barrier clearly isn’t a hindrance for the fans who live all over the world.

Nguyen, who lives in Connecticut, first listened to K-Pop music when she was in high school and essentially forgot about it for a number of years. When she rediscovered the music she was again attracted to how upbeat it was, and perhaps more importantly, she was able to find solace in the lyrics.

“ I kind of fell out of K-Pop for a bit. When I came back, it was a very tough time for me. Family issues and work and stuff and it just kind of lifted me up and gave me something different to think about. For right now, it’s helping me to stand up tall,” she said.

A self-described “multi fan-girl,” it’s impossible for her to choose just one favorite song or one favorite band.
TVXQ, Super Junior, BTS, EXO, GOT7, Pentagon, Seventeen, B.A.P.–those are just a few of who I like. I could really go on. I just love all of them because each group has their own style of music,” she said.

“Pretty much all of my same age friends love K-Pop. They all have their own groups they love, but I kind of beat them in my love for K-Pop.”

Nguyen displays the majority of her collection on three canvas banners that hang on the walls of her bedroom, but she keeps her favorites with her always, on the bag that she carries with her everywhere she goes.

These three banners, which are nearly completely filled with K-Pop themed enamel pins, hang on the wall of collector Hang Nguyen’s bedroom.
Hang Nguyen’s bag is covered with some of her most favorite pins from her collection of K-Pop pins.

Shock isn’t an uncommon reaction for friends who see her entire collection for the first time.

“They’ll say ‘oh my god, that is a lot of pins.’ And they will ask: ‘did you buy it like that?’” she laughs. “And I’m like, no, I collected every single one of these.”

During the time she has been collecting, she’s noticed a dramatic change in the availability of K-Pop themed enamel pins. In the beginning, she knew of only two artists that sold pins relevant to her interests.

This pin, by artist uyeon.co, is Hang Nguyen’s favorite pin in her K-Pop pin collection. “It glows in the dark…It’s based on one of my favorite songs, ‘Whalien 52’ by BTS,” she said.
“These are my second two favorites. I’m an Apple user so these are perfect. The iPhone one is by HAPPIPOP and it’s for the group BTS. The second one is from  Nerdywolves and it’s for the group known as EXO. I love that one because I use my iPod Classic to listen to all of my music, but this one shows the subgroups of EXO and the fandom name. The time on the iPod is also when the group debuted.”

“When I first started collecting pins it was really hard. There were barely any pin makers that had K-Pop pins,” she said. “When I first bought a pin, it was an official pin—it cost way too much money for something so small. It was less than an inch long in size. I paid about $20 for it.”

Nguyen has just three enamel pins that aren’t K-Pop related—a fact that she doesn’t see changing anytime soon.

“My heart right now is collecting pins and I will branch out eventually, but right now it’s hard to keep up with the K-pop pins.”

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