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It was Jiye Kim’s first BTS show. As the throng waved light sticks and chanted the band’s fan chant—Kim Nam-Joon!—a rippling sea of shimmering globes appeared. Seok-jin, Kim! Yoon Yoon-gi! Ho-Seok Jung! Ji-min Park! Tae-Hyung Kim! Jung-gook Jeon! BTS!
Kim previously enjoyed the group’s music, but seeing them perform in front of an audience of more than 11,000 people at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena in May 2017 turned her become a fan—or, more exactly, a member of ARMY, the K-pop juggernaut’s official fandom name. “I got one ticket for myself and sat at the highest corner in the most difficult position in this small stadium,” says Kim, an Australian-born high school teacher. BTS was in the midst of their global Wings tour. “I anticipated them to be decent live vocalists, to dance well, and to have intriguing music,” Kim, 26, explains. But it was the concert’s message that touched her.
According to Kim, it was a simple declaration of support that struck a profound chord. Prior to the tour, the septet published You Never Walk Alone, a compilation album with roughly 20 tracks concerning the theme. Also, you must try to play this Are You A BTS Army Quiz.
Are You A BTS Army Quiz
“Spring Day” was filled with longing for a buddy, while “2! 3!” encouraged the listener to “forget all unhappy memories” and “grin holding each other’s hands.” Kim was moved to tears when she heard these songs at the concert. “When I walked outside, I just definitely remember gazing up into the sky, breathing in, and thinking, that’s the first time a group has made me care more about them, but also care more about the earth that I live in,” she says.
What exactly is the ARMY?
The ARMY, which was already millions strong, had a fresh recruit. BTS had a cult following long before it became the first all-South Korean act to top the Billboard Hot 100 with “Dynamite,” or established a global record for the most viewers for a concert live stream during the coronavirus pandemic. The septet’s popularity attracted the attention of worldwide media when it enabled the band to win the fan-voted Top Social Artist award at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, with more than 300 million votes. BTS broke Justin Bieber’s six-year winning record in the category, beating out Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, and Selena Gomez. Bieber had more than 100 million Twitter followers at the time, and Grande was the third-most followed Instagram account. One of the most important questions in the music industry at the time was, “Who is ARMY?”
Though ARMY has always been present in person—fans queued for days around Times Square in New York City to ring in 2020 with BTS at Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, not to mention their imposing presence at the group’s sold-out stadium concerts—it is also one of the most active online communities in existence.
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More than 40 million ARMY (Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth) members subscribe to BTS’ YouTube channel, and over 30 million follow both the member-run Twitter account and Big Hit’s official BTS Instagram account. ARMY distinguishes itself from other fandoms by mobilizing with an unmatched level of organization, driven by a desire to see the seven members of BTS leave their mark in places previously unknown by any other South Korean pop group.
Jiye Kim now maintains one of the largest Twitter fan translation accounts for BTS, @doyou bangtan, from her residence in Sydney, with over 270,000 followers. Fan translation accounts, which include everything from song lyrics and video content to the members’ social media posts, are a prime example of how ARMY both enriches existing fans’ comprehension of the group and presents BTS to new audiences. “The motivation to translate always stems from a love of the group and the realization that there wasn’t much being translated into English,” Kim, who started her account in 2017, explains.
Kim spent five hours translating a BTS interview from Korean to English the first time. The amount of time she spends translating these days is determined by the activities of the group. “During the promotional season, roughly two weeks before an album publishes, I would probably empty my schedule of non–work-related engagements as much as possible,” she reveals. “My sleep schedule would shift.” In past years, Kim set an alarm for 12 a.m. KST (Korea Standard Time) every day for two months around the time of a new BTS release—often when Big Hit distributes new content.