K-pop fans are coming together at events across Southern California known as cupsleeves.

The gatherings draw in hundreds of fans from Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties to build community around their love of K-pop idols and their music. LA Times contributor Kayti Burt joined host Lisa McRee on "LA Times Today" with more.

Burt explained how K-pop has been popular in Korean-American communities for longer that it's been in the mainstream culture. It really took off in American leading up to and during the pandemic.

“It’s not only music, it’s also dancing, it’s variety shows, it’s fashion," she said. "It’s so many different things that I think, especially when people were looking for life outside of their home or outside of the routine. That’s when they found K-pop and other kinds of Korean media as well."

Events like cupsleeves also allow them to bring their fandom offline and mingle in person.

“Cupsleeves at their most basic are really just fan-organized events that take place at a Boba shop, a cafe, or other spaces," said Burt. "They started in Korea amongst the fans of different K-pop groups, and they’re usually tied to a K-pop idol’s birthday, the release of a new song, or the anniversary of a K-pop group’s debut. They get their name from the cardboard sleeves that go around to-go containers at coffee shops or Boba places."

Cupsleeve events are organized by fans for fans. Sometimes, organizers spend up to $1,000 on an event.

"There's also often vendors who are also fans who have designed and made their own merchandise that they can sell to other fans who are interested in buying things," said Burt. "So these are people who have started their own small businesses completely around a K-pop fandom and who make a lot of their sales at events like cupsleeves."

Other fandoms, like lovers of a Chinese book series, have been inspired by the events and set up their own.

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