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K-pop titan BTS's online concert draws global fans

SEOUL (Reuters) - Fans of BTS tuned in to 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.

The band’s latest success was “Dynamite”, its first song entirely in English, which 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.

The band earned a Guinness World Records title for most viewers for a livestreamed performance after its first paid online concert in June drew nearly 757,000 from 107 countries.

Its management company, Bit Hit Entertainment, has not released how many people watched the latest show, though it garnered some 114 million real-time “cheer clicks,” a sign of approval that fans can press multiple times.

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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 and William Mallard

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