If you’re reading this article then I’m pretty sure you are aware that I am a rather large fan of the South Korean band BTS. We fans are known as the ARMY- an acronym for Adorable Representative M.C For Youth which was the name decided by the group themselves following their debut back in 2013. The name may seem a little silly but it actually holds a deeper meaning that has become all the more prominent in the last five years or so of their career. The band themselves have become representatives for the youth literally since the naming of their fan group, to the point where they were chosen as “Special Presidential Envoys for Future Generations and Culture” by the South Korean president Moon Jae-in and spoke at the UN this year to represent young people from all over the world.
The band has achieved so much for themselves, for their country and for people across the planet and yet, the ARMY fan base still tends to get tarred with a particular kind of brush from the media. We are often portrayed as screaming fan girls or groupies who will do anything to protect our beloved boys, even if it means being abusive and hateful to other people. Of course, every single fan base on the planet has the toxic part of their community. That can’t be helped and the ARMY is no exception to this. That being said, this is only a small minority of the ARMY with most being genuine fans who were brought together for their love of BTS, their excellent music and their messages of being yourself and loving who you are. I found myself becoming sick and tired of being considered a crazed fan. Even James Corden- a television host who is an advocate of the boys- suggested that their fans are mostly made up of “fifteen year old girls” recently. This was clearly said without malice and I’m not attacking Corden- just to be clear- but I feel like this is the perfect example of the media’s view of BTS’s fans. To so many, we are merely shrieking groupies who are just madly in love with these seven handsome Korean men. I know for a fact that we are so much more than that, being one of the most diverse fan bases I have ever come across. With this in mind, I wanted to tell the stories of the fans to show that the BTS ARMY are highly diverse and come from all walks of life. I conducted a survey and asked the ARMY to take part. In it, I asked what their BTS story was, how they came to be fans and what the group means to them. I got a lot of great responses so I want to give a massive shout out and thank you to everyone who took part. I’ll be crediting you all as we go too. On to the stories!
Kira’s BTS Story
25. Female. An administrator from England.
“I first discovered BTS back in 2017 when they performed at the American Music Awards with DNA. I didn’t know what K-Pop was or even who BTS were but I remember watching them and being amazed at their dancing and style and vocals and so I was interested in who they were . So then like most people I hopped on to YouTube and typed BTS and well the rest is history. 5 years later and I have seen them 3 times in concert and even planned a trip to South Korea!”
“My bias is Jimin. He always stood out to me at the beginning and I loved his dancing and his cuteness and fashion and always enjoyed his performance. But I of course love them all, they each bring something unique to the group and work so well together but also it’s nice to see their solo projects too and not feel that they are trying to get away from the group but they always make you feel like it’s just an additional thing to enjoy.”
Joanna’s BTS Story
32. Female. Administrative Supervisor in Healthcare. Lives in England but originally from Poland.
“I started listening to K-Pop in 2007 and I always enjoyed finding new groups and music to listen to. BTS caught my eye when they first debuted in 2013 and I watched their variety show ‘Rookie King’ which showcased their playful personalities extremely well and it made me want to get to know them and their music better. I am proud to be their fan. Their overall message, music and lyrics throughout the years resonated with me when I wasn’t very sure of myself. They taught me it is okay to walk or even stop when everyone else is running; it is okay to be uncertain of what to do and not to have a goal. They encouraged me to love myself when I didn’t feel like it was even possible. They helped me through dark moments in my life and I am forever grateful for that.”
“Their first song I completely fell in love was ‘Just One Day’ in 2014. I was lucky enough to attend 3 of their concerts so far and they always make your heart beat fast for hours if not days. They are a festival and something I am hoping we will be able to participate in again soon. Being an ARMY made me feel a part of a bigger community and is an amazing experience.”
Liliana’s BTS Story
28. Female. Supervisor. Lives in the UK but originally from Portugal.
“My BTS journey actually started with Asian television. I watched anime when I was younger, which led me to Chinese dramas, and the power of Netflix to Korean dramas. From there, one day I was on YouTube watching k-drama clips and it suggested I watch “Boy with Luv”. As soon as that video came on I was hooked. It was colourful, and different to anything I had watched before. From there onwards I kept watching BTS MV’s, which led to the typical I just want to learn their names and the rest is history. I’ve been an ARMY since May 2019. Through BTS I found ARMY and that has been such a great gift. We are many of all backgrounds, being an immigrant in the UK isn’t easy. I moved here when I was young and it’s hard fitting in to a whole new culture. BTS and ARMY show people self-love, and through this message I learnt that it was okay to love myself with all my weird quirks of being Portuguese but living in the UK. That’s what BTS has brought me and I’m forever grateful. Acceptance of others is easy, acceptance of yourself is harder. BTS help you on your journey with their amazing lyrics, they get my generation and I love that about them”.
“My bias is Taehyung, simply because his never afraid to be himself, with all his quirks and that’s something I aspire to be myself. All the members have their own charm, but their journey, their friendship and their music are all inspiring – just listen to “Mikrokosmos” and you feel part of something bigger. You find BTS when you need them, and ARMY friends come into your life and suddenly its a whole new world that’s opened to you.”
Michelle’s BTS Story
40. Female. Nursing associate from England.
“My teenage daughter introduced me. I watched the BST video when it debuted and generally looked into BTS and k-pop in general to show I was interested in her interests. It’s grown from there. I went from just wanting to learn their names to full blown ARMY. My other kids love them too. I’m normally into alt music but I find these young men inspiring and such a refreshing change from the normal pop artists. They use their influence for positive change. They are more than a “boy band”. Although they are undeniably attractive men I also feel proud of their achievements. I feel like I’ve followed them through this journey. They’ve connected not only me and my teen but a whole community of fans.”
Erika’s BTS Story
42, almost 43. Female. Shop Assistant who lives in the UK but is originally from Chile.
“My niece back home is ARMY and she asked me to get her tickets for Wembley, which I managed to do for D2. I’d never heard about them before. I attended the concert, I absolutely loved it, but I didn’t become ARMY as I thought I was too old. When the UK went into lockdown, they came appearing everywhere and I found myself falling down the rabbit hole when I saw the “Spring Day” MV. I couldn’t fight the feeling anymore. They helped me to stay sane during those months and they were a blessing. I think the best part about becoming ARMY is the friends I’ve made along the way. I was lacking good friends.”
“I fancied Jimin way before becoming ARMY. Then I became ARMY, watched Hwarang ( a Korean period drama in which Taehyung has a role) and fell in love with Taehyung. Then I fell in love with Yoongi while watching In The Soop (a reality show that the group took part in last year). I’m pretty sure that Jungkook was my wrecker at some point. But I love them all. Whilst in lockdown, I started watching K-dramas and C-dramas and it must’ve been my brain trying to survive, but a love story came to me, inspired by BTS songs and a Chinese actor. It was supposed to last 60 pages and I ended up writing like 500. That story also kept me going. I’m not a professional writer, but my novel is my pride and joy and I’d love it if more ARMY gave it a go.” https://www.wattpad.com/1084419671
Emma’s BTS Story
42. Female. Administrator from the UK.
“In 2019 I came across BTS what watching Ellen. I saw them on other US programmes and saw their first performance- “Idol”- which I fell in love with. Eager to learn more I spent a lot of time looking into them and watching videos. BTS have brought me so much joy over the last two years and have saved me from going into some dark places mentally especially with their positivity and strong messages they give in their songs. I can always rely on them to make me smile even though the toughest of days. They will never know how they have helped me personally, but I am eternally grateful to the seven of them.”
“Having found BTS, it then led me to find other groups and I have 4 groups that I love equally. My biases are JK, Yoongi and Jimin but my ultimate is JK. My favourite songs are “Still With You”, “House of Cards”, “Louder than Bombs” and “Idol”. Favourite album is Love Yourself Answer.”
Mumta’s BTS Story
33. Female. Palliative Care Nurse from England.
I found them by chance on Instagram (sitting in my car in between patients in lockdown) and have been hooked since. My friend died and I found solace in watching and listening to their music and they gave me a lot of comfort.
Even my husband knows my bias is JK 😜 💜 lol honestly I can’t pick any one favourite song or performance, I just love it all.
Note from Antonia: I’m so sorry for your loss Mumta. I’m glad the boys could help you through it.
Kay’s BTS Story
36. Female. Stay at home mum from England.
“I had just separated from my mentally abusive husband, and within 2 months we also went into worldwide lockdown, depression was kicking in and I had lost interest in life, I spent my days sat in my armchair watching Netflix. This led me to discover K-drama’s, got really into them and the Korean culture and started wanting to learn Korean…and at some point in my research BTS appeared on my social media feeds, and down the rabbit whole I went. I started to listen to their songs, their messages, watching everything I could about them and really quickly I started to feel happy again. I joined social media Army groups and instantly felt part of a loving, inspiring family. The support and love was just life changing. Being part of Army gave me the push to start living again, not just for me but for my children too. Honestly if I hadn’t found BTS and Army, I am not sure I would be here now.”
“My Bias has always been Namjoon, but my love for the boys extends to all of them. Each of their individual personalities touches my heart in different ways, and I think because of my age it mostly comes from an older sister (누나) want to support and love on them. One day I would love to personally thank them for saving my life.”
Note from Antonia- Such an inspiring story Kay. Thank you so much for being brave enough to share it. 누나 translates directly as nona but is said as noona in Korean, a term of endearment for an older sister or older female figure. Thanks for the interesting inclusion Kay!
Sue’s BTS Story
53. Female. Carer from the UK.
“Me and my daughter found them on YouTube while looking through different videos while my daughter was recovering from spinal surgery 7 years ago. They have really helped me get over a marriage of 22 years ending and jhope singing “MAMA” hit home to me as my mum died on 18th Feb 2006 and it’s a strange coincidence that jhope birthday is 18th February. I share a birthday with Jimin. Favourite songs are “MIC Drop”, “Spring Day”, “Butter” and “War of Hormone”.”
Harshita’s BTS Story
25. Female. Graphic Designer from India.
“My cousin introduced me to BTS. She sent me the links for “MIC Drop” and “Fire” and I thought those were dope songs. After that I started to listen more of their songs, then I came across Run Ep and after that I came to know about their whole story. Everything happened in a month and I was deep into the fandom.”
“My bias is Min Yoongi. He is my biggest inspiration to be honest. And not just him but the whole of Bangtan. Whenever I’m feeling down I always watch their videos or listen to their songs and it makes me feel so much better about myself. I don’t know how to explain it, but they are one of the reasons why I’m not giving up on so many things. I was on the edge of falling into the great depression when I found them and they legit saved me. Btw my favourite album is WINGS and favourite song is “134340”.Though who can really choose between their albums and songs? Everything is perfect.”
Koren’s BTS Story.
44, almost 45. Female. Ex lab technician- now a massage therapist in training- from England.
“I first discovered them on YouTube around 4 years ago but forgot who they were to look them up. Rediscovered them in March this year and haven’t looked back. I think their whole ethos towards everything they do and towards each other is beautiful and their music helps to put you in the right frame of mind regarding different things.
“I’m a greedy ho with two biases, Tae and Hobi (mainly for pervy reasons) but I love them all. Two of my favourite songs of theirs are “Outro: Tear” and “Louder than bombs” but there is too much of a choice to narrow it down. I mainly like metal and rap but they’ve definitely opened me up to other genres”
Note from Antonia- I laughed loudly when I read that “greedy ho” comment. Thanks Koren, I needed that today.
Chrissy’s BTS Story
47. Female. Insurance Claims Examiner from England.
“During the Covid-19 lockdown, my 10 year old autistic daughter was suffering from anxiety, she couldn’t cope with any schooling and took to shutting herself in her room watching You Tube. One day she came out of her room with a huge smile on her face, excited for the first time in months. When I asked her what she was so happy about she squealed BTS! I began watching the videos with her, I was just so happy to see her smile. But the more I watched the more I fell in love with these boys. I didn’t admit it to her at first but I couldn’t hide my excitement when I saw my first VLive! I was hooked. These young men, so talented, so hard working, so cute, sexy and funny, an inspiration but also they are the reason my daughter laughs every day and that is so precious to me. BTS bring love, positivity, happiness and fun to our family. I love every one of the members equally, they all bring their own uniqueness to BTS and together they complement each other perfectly. They have so many songs that have personal meaning to me, songs that touch my soul, songs that feel like they are reaching into me and tearing my heart out, songs that feel my feelings. It’s rare that I find music that I can relate to so well.”
Note from Antonia- This is such a sweet story Chrissy. I have an autistic brother myself and so I know how difficult things can get when routines are out of place but knowing that BTS made your daughter smile again is amazing!
Sue’s BTS Story
72. Female Retiree from England.
“Started watching K-dramas on Facebook and YouTube at the start of the 1st lockdown (2020). Saw a clip of a BTS concert, watched “DNA” MV and wanted to see more. Then I was caught up watching their singing/dancing skills. I wanted to know their names… so it starts!! As I found out more about them I could relate it to my son’s struggles in music industry when he was a DJ. Success comes with hard work and maybe a little bit of luck. Learning about their journey has been fascinating. I admire that they’ve never lost their humility. Watching them and the dramas has fuelled my interest in Korea to the point that I’m now (trying) to learn Korean.”
Lynne’s BTS Story
55. Female. Unpaid Carer from Scotland.
“My daughter found them a year after my son died. Our grief was really raw and nothing brought joy. She played them on repeat for about 2 weeks. I found myself humming along and soon started to recognise the different songs. Then she started watching Run BTS and after I got over the really fast captions, I found myself watching them and laughing. I didn’t think anything would ever make me laugh like that ever again! I have always used music as a way to get through tough times but all my usual favourites were not helping with this grief that was like no other grief I experienced. Since I first heard them I really resonated with their lyrics. They write so beautifully about the hard stuff which helps when you are going through the most horrendous of times. During the last 4 years, BTS are what get me up in the morning. I watch their music videos before I even get out of bed and I watch them to help me try and sleep which has been a real problem after Jack died. My daughter and I have seen them at the O2 and Wembley and both occasions were the only two moments of pure joy I have had since my son died. I think what also drew me to them was that they all had olive skin, dark hair and dark eyes like my son who was a beautiful boy just like these 7 beautiful men.”
“I love all the guys in BTS, they all bring a different talent and quality to the group. If I had to pick my favourites it would be Jimin and Jungkook. I loved the Love Yourself albums, I played them on repeat when I was walking through the woods with my dogs on some of my really tough days and it really helped.”
Note from Antonia- Lynne, your story had me in tears. I am so sorry for your loss but knowing that you found comfort with BTS and a joy that you didn’t think you would feel again is so lovely to hear.
Gemma’s BTS Story
Ajhumma! Early Years Child-care Practitioner from the UK.
“I came across BTS when I started watching K-dramas at the beginning of UK lockdown. I got really bad anxiety and insomnia due to the pandemic, so found listening to their music helped me feel calmer and get my joy back. I also have a really bad back (perks of my job!) however listening to BTS helps me work through the pain, and the little ones I care for and I really love dancing to their songs, it’s great for their all-round development and makes us all feel happy. Reading up about the group and watching clips on YouTube has made me realise that they are fantastic role models for everyone, from their bravery in honestly sharing their struggles, hopes and dreams, highs and lows, to their fashions, hair etc. I especially love that they included sign language in “Permission to Dance”, it shows that they are kind and thoughtful guys.”
“I basically love most of their songs, however my favourites are:-“PTD”, “Boy with Luv”, “Butterfly”, “Stay”, “Mic Drop”, “Blue and Grey”, “Epiphany”, “Life Goes On”, “Make it Right”, “Anpanman”, “Black Swan”, “Daechwita” and “Your eyes tell”. I think all 7 guys are amazing and should be so proud of everything they do, they have made such a big difference to so many of us in what has been a pretty shitty 18 months, I really wish them lots of love and happiness as they truly deserve it xxx”
Note from Antonia: Ajhumma is a Korean word for a married or a middle aged woman. I had to look that up so thanks for the mini Korean lesson Gemma!!
As you can see, there are some pretty diverse occupations and stories to be had from the ARMY. BTS have clearly made so many people so happy, helping them through difficult times, giving them hope and even aiding them in their grief over lost loved ones. I certainly felt myself getting emotional reading through these stories and there is much more to come. We have a lot of UK ARMY in this section but the answers are going to be getting more global in the next parts of this article. Stay tuned for more coming soon and thanks again to all of the participants who shared their stories.