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- Hailing from South Korea, BTS is one of the biggest bands in the world.
Their latest single “IDOL” had the biggest YouTube 24-hour debut of all time.
- I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the opening concert of the group’s “Love Yourself’ world tour, which kicked off in Seoul, and it was truly crazy.
- Getting a ticket itself was a scary experience: I was scammed and even blackmailed by fans into trying to give up my ticket.
- Outside the stadium, many had been camping for days to get hold of merchandise. And inside, I was booted out for snapping several photos.
- The overall experience made me realize how protective and obsessive fans can be about their favorite K-pop idols.
Forget “Gangnam Style” and PSY: the boys from BTS are the undisputed kings of K-pop.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard about Bangtan Sonyeondan, also known as the Bangtan Boys or BTS. Debuting in 2013, the South Korean group has been all over the internet in recent years, breaking record after record in the global music industry.
Anything they touch goes viral — including appearances on The Ellen Show.
Their latest single “IDOL” raked over 45 million views on YouTube in its first 24 hours of release, earning the largest first-day debut in YouTube’s history by knocking off Taylor Swift’s 2017 single “Look What You Made Me Do,” which earned 43.2 million views in 24 hours. “IDOL” also has an alternative version that features Nicki Minaj.
The group’s album “Love Yourself: Tear” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart in May, making it the highest-charting album in US history for a K-pop act.
BTS owes their success to their die-hard fan base, dubbed the “Army,” which stays busy on social media, spreading the BTS message around the world and generating millions of clicks, views, and BTS-related retweets.
The group’s “Love Yourself” world tour kicked off in Seoul in August and will pass through the US, Europe, and Japan through February. All of the tour dates are currently sold out.
I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the opening night on August 25 in Seoul. But as I found out, BTS fans will employ whatever means possible to get their hands on tickets — including blackmail.
Here’s how I got a ticket, the scene outside the stadium, and how my experience of the concert unfortunately lasted for less than 20 minutes.
With tickets having sold out in seconds, I resorted to going online to find resale ones. They were of course selling for several times face value, but I thought to myself, “But this BTS,” and convinced myself to go.
The plan was this: buy two tickets, and sell off the second to pay for the first. I received the first one after a day. But the second ticket never came. The vendor suddenly went silent and refused to return my messages or send my ticket. She then invented every excuse in the book: a funeral, no internet data, no text message credit, school, phone being confiscated by a teacher…
Considering I had all her private details, I told her I would report her to the police if she didn’t send it. Considering she was (probably) a high-school student, she freaked out and finally sent the ticket. I documented the whole saga here).
When I received the ticket, the next plan was the resell it. I was bombarded by private messages from BTS fans who posed as potential customers, and then told me if I didn’t give the ticket to them for cheaper, they’d report me to the police for scalping. For the record, ticket reselling online is entirely legal. It’s just that you cannot resell outside concert venues.
Eventually, I was able to sell the ticket for no profit, but was already curious as to how the concert would unfold.
There was already euphoria in the air as I arrived at Sports Complex Station located in Jamsil, Seoul, early in the afternoon of August 25, the day of the opening gig for BTS’ “Love Yourself” World Tour. The station was packed, and the exit was decorated with a massive poster of BTS member Jungkook to celebrate his birthday on September 1.
Note: These banners are paid for by BTS Army fans — not just in Korea but around the world.
Everyone was holding BTS lights, devices which can be paired to your seat number and will emit a specific color to form massive patterns across the stadium. Except I would not be able to see this spectacle, because I was booted out the stadium for taking several pictures using a small hand camera.
The culprit? My Sony ILCE-5000. After all the hardships I’d been through to finally get hold of a ticket, I couldn’t believe this was happening. I had openly taken a few photos. Then one fan-turned- concert staff came to me, grabbed my hand and said, “No camera. Only smartphone.” I told her I (genuinely) had no idea and was sorry, but she insisted for me to come with her downstairs. I assumed we were going to store my camera somewhere.
No. I was being kicked out. She took a marker pen and crossed out my ticket — essentially invalidating it. I pleaded with her that I really didn’t know that I was not allowed to take pictures: all the other fans had cameras and were taking pictures (high quality zoomed-in fan footage was subsequently uploaded on Facebook, Twitter and forums after the concert).
“You broke the rules. Out! Get out! Can you not read?” she said, showing me a poster on the wall which stated in small print that cameras were not permitted. OK, I made a mistake. But I wasn’t expecting the aggressiveness.
“This is a BTS concert —pictures have never been allowed,” she quipped, assuming that, had I been a true die-hard fan, I would have known the golden rules. “Get out! No refund! No re-entry!” she repeated, after which bouncers literally booted me out, and locked the gates behind me.
I was stunned. Aside from the financial loss, I couldn’t believe how aggressive and protective staff were. A million questions were going through my head. Was I really that stupid not to know? Why no cameras? Why me? Why not every other person in the stadium with a camera? Why no storage? Why the rule?
As I headed home, South Korean friends did little to console me. “This is K-pop — didn’t you know? We warned you this industry can be scary,” they said.