How many “saban”, “kemi”, and “chikkeum” can you answer? … K-POP fan terms you can’t ask Generation Z about now | FRIDAY DIGITAL

How many “saban”, “kemi”, and “chikkeum” can you answer? … K-POP fan terms you can’t ask Generation Z about now

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE
From left to right, the five members of LE SSERAFIM: Kazuha, Eunche, Yoonjin, Chae-won, and Sakura. Kazuha and Sakura are Japanese. Photo: Kyodo News

That Kemi is precious,” “Cute Manne,” “Our 1Pick,” “Penmi won!” Have you ever heard such words from ……? These are all words used by K-pop fans. These K-pop terms, which have a slightly different guessing culture from that of Japan, are also well-established among fans. It is embarrassing (?) if you don’t know them. Here are some common sense words and customs that can be used in K-pop “guessing activities” that are embarrassing (?) if you don’t know them.

What is the Japanese word for “guess” in Korea?

K-pop groups such as BTS, SEVENTEEN, and Stray Kids for male groups and IVE, LE SSERAFIM, and NewJeans for female groups have long been a part of the Japanese music scene. Furthermore, the boy groups JO1 and INI, the girl group ME:I, and the Japan-Korea joint audition project NiziU, which were selected for the Japanese version of “PRODUCE 101 JAPAN,” a survival audition program originally held in Korea, can be counted as K-POP in the broadest sense. The fans of these K-pop groups use the same name.

The terminology used by fans of these K-pop groups differs slightly from that used by Japanese entertainment fans. For example, the Japanese word for “guess” is “pick” in the K-pop world.

The meaning of the English word is to “pick” a member to guess, but when this is combined with an audition program, a number is added to the beginning of the word, such as “1Pick,” “2Pick,” “11Pick,” or ……. As the selection process progresses, fans vote for their favorites. The system reduces the number of votes fans can cast as the selection process progresses, and they have to narrow down the guesses they want to vote for. The number of votes in that case is represented in this way. It is also possible to cast all the votes for a particular member, in which case it is called “1Pick Continuation”. In any case, “1Pick” is the word for the most favorite.

The survival audition program, which is a common feature of K-pop, in which debutant members are narrowed down from a large number of candidates by voting, and the system itself are also abbreviated as “saba-ban,” “saba-ban,” or “saba” (saba means “survival” and ban means “program”). (Saba means “survival” and ban means “program.”) “The next sababan, my first pick will be tough” means “In the current audition program, the candidate I am most interested in is not getting enough votes, so his or her debut will be tough.

Other exchanges, mostly in Korean-quoted words, have taken root among fans.


Meaning “elder sister,” it is used as a term of address to women, even if they are not related by blood. Onni” is also used to address the older members of the group, as well as the relatively older members on a one-to-one basis.


This means “older brother” and is used to refer to an older member in a male group as well as to an onni in a female group.


In fact, “onni” and “hyun” are strictly used in Korean only to address members of the same sex. The term “nuna” is used to address a male to a female, and “oppa” is used to address a female to a male. Therefore, when male fans refer to a member of a girl group, they are sometimes called “nuna,” but it is not so strict when used between fans.


The youngest member of a group. Manneh means “youngest child” in Korean, and the youngest member is loved both in Japan and Korea. Fans call them “manneh” in a friendly way.


In Korean, YOJA means “woman/girl” and NAMJA means “man/boy. Namja” means “man” or “boy” in Korean, and is used to refer to someone as “that girl. In addition, adding the word “group”, female groups are called “Yoja Guru” and male groups are called “Namja Guru”.


Chemistry means “the chemistry between two people. It is derived from “Chemitsy (chemical reaction),” and has come to mean the good relationship between two members of a particular group. It is also used simply to refer to a “duo or combination. It is used to refer to members of a group who get along well with each other, as in “00 and XX’s chemi is the best” or “chemi is precious”.

Shiraiwa pen” is not stationery! Intermediate to advanced terminology still to come!

Pen / Penmi

Pen means fan. It is used as in “00 no pen,” and “fan” and “otaku,” which are commonly used in Japan, are rarely used. Penmi” refers to “fan meetings,” and “pen” is sometimes used in conjunction with a member’s name. The term “Shiraiwa pen” means “a fan of JO1 Rui Shiraiwa,” not a pen as in writing utensil.


Similar to “pen,” but derived from the English word “fandom,” meaning “a group of fans. While pen refers to an individual fan, fandom refers to the group’s fans as a whole. K-pop groups have a custom of giving each fandom a unique nickname, such as “JAM” for JO1, “MINI” for INI, and “FEARNOT (Piona)” for LE SSERAFIM.

. chickem.

A video in which a close-up of a particular member is taken. In Japanese, it is called “guess camera. It is also a popular content among fans as it allows them to closely observe the performance and facial expressions of the members.


This term means “video call,” and is used to refer to online meet-and-greet events where you can talk with the members.

00 line

The term “01line” is used to refer to the year of birth. It is also used as a self-description of a fan, as in “I am 01line.


It means “birthday” in Korean, and is celebrated by fans and group members in the same way as in Japan.

In this way, the “fandom” of K-pop is a unique mix of Korean and English words.

If you know the words, a seemingly unintelligible sentence such as “I’m going to a penmi with my friend who is a Chae-won pen of Piona, line 01,” can be understood as “I’m going to a fan meeting with my friend who is a fan of Kim Chae-won of LE SSERAFIM and who was born in ’01. This may be a good opportunity for “cross-cultural exchange” to learn about K-pop and, by extension, Korean and youth culture.

  • Literature Anri Katsura Photo by Anri Katsura Kyodo News

Photo Gallery1 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles