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BTS on stage for first Seoul gig since pandemic

SEOUL (AFP) – Tens of thousands of BTS fans were gathering in Seoul yesterday for the K-pop superstars’ first live concert in South Korea since the pandemic began – although COVID rules will prevent them from dancing or singing along.

The chart-topping septet’s series of three concerts – dubbed ‘Permission to Dance on Stage – Seoul’ – kicks off at the capital’s Olympic Stadium yesterday evening.

Since BTS’ last performance for domestic fans in 2019, the band have gone from strength to strength, with three Billboard-topping singles and two Grammy nominations.

Hours before the show, concert-goers – many clad in purple sweatshirts, the official colour of BTS fandom – crowded the venue, and filled the streets outside with banners of the band.

“It feels like a dream and I still can’t believe that this is my seat whenever I look at my ticket,” said Heo Min-hee, a 25-year-old office worker from Seoul.

Han Aeng-hee, a 53-year-old fan from Gyeonggi province, added, “I prayed every morning to secure a ticket and miraculously, I got tickets to the first and last concerts.”

“I’m very grateful and I can’t wait,” she said.

Fans of K-pop group BTS pose for pictures as they arrive for a BTS live concert at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul. PHOTOS: AFP

Tickets for the concerts – 45,000 seats in all – sold out within minutes, despite stringent social-distancing requirements for the BTS fans, known as ARMY. Chanting, singing, screaming or even standing up are all banned, as South Korea battles an Omicron spike, with more than 300,000 cases reported yesterday.

“Instead, we ask for warm applause to show support for the artistes,” Big Hit Music, the group’s agency, said on its Weverse social media platform.

Ahead of the concert, BTS members expressed concern over the rules but asked for fans’ understanding.

“There is a certain energy that can be felt from a person’s voice, and I wonder if clapping can be enough,” said J-Hope, whose real name is Jung Ho-seok.

His bandmate Kim Tae-hyung, whose stage name is V, added, “We also want to really hear the voices of our ARMY fans, but we are grateful and thankful for the fact that we can meet and see your faces.”

Fans were disappointed about the rules but acknowledged the changes were inevitable.

“Even though it’s hard, I think it’s a necessary change under the current circumstances,” said Lee Chae-rim, a student.

“At least we can see them,” added Darina, a 24-year-old student from Russia who lives in South Korea. “We can sing in our hearts.”


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