By Hyonhee Shin and Soohyun Mah
SEOUL (Reuters) – More than 100 million fans of BTS tuned into an online concert by the K-pop boyband on Saturday, holding their signature light sticks and sharing messages in a chatroom.
Titled “Map of The Soul ON:E,” the virtual event came after the seven-member group scrapped its initial plan to hold an in-person show for a limited audience, in line with the South Korean government’s tightened social distancing curbs. The band had already cancelled planned world tours.
As many as 114 million fans watched the concert, propelled by the success of “Dynamite”, BTS’ first song entirely in English that topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart last month.
“You’re not here but I feel you here, as if I can hear your chants, and next time let’s really be here together,” vocalist V, or Kim Tae-hyung, told fans.
Since its 2013 debut, BTS has spearheaded a global K-Pop craze with catchy, upbeat music and dances, as well as lyrics and social campaigns aimed at empowering young people.
As the band performed, a background wall of small screens showed thousands of fans joining from across the world, many waving light sticks known as “army bombs”. A chatroom was opened to allow fans to post comments simultaneously.
In Seoul, a small group gathered at a fan-run, BTS-themed cafe to watch the concert together, though wearing masks and keeping a distance from each other.
“Their songs gave comfort in these tough times and made me a fan,” said An Ji-won, 40, after breaking down in tears as she watched the show.
“They sing to say everything will be OK and to cheer up, which I think is why all fans around the world love them.”
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Soohyun Mah; Additional reporting by Dogyun Kim; Editing by Ros Russell)