Korean Wave

Army to ARMY: BTS mania hits Seoul with Jin 'huggathon'

Hieun Shin - Agence France-Presse

SEOUL, South Korea — For BTS ARMY members, as the K-pop phenomenon's fan base is known, the timing of Jin's discharge from South Korean military service couldn't have been more fortuitous.

Just 24 hours after the oldest member of the world's biggest boyband was discharged from duty, the South Korean capital was overtaken by BTS fans, with tens of thousands of people lining up Thursday to join the group's annual party.

Organized by HYBE, the band's agency, the BTS FESTA last year saw 400,000 fans attend.

This year's event, held at a sprawling sports complex in southern Seoul, is expected to exceed the record, with Jin giving out free hugs at a nearby location to a select group of 1,000 lucky raffle winners in a "huggathon."

Related: BTS' Jin discharged from military after 18 months of service

With lines stretching up to three kilometers around the FESTA venue, fans showed up from as early as 7:00 a.m. to make sure they could get their hands on the band's coveted merchandise and free photo cards of their idols.

BTS has been on a self-described "hiatus" since 2022, with all seven members conscripted successively for military service.

Due to tensions with the nuclear-armed North, South Korea requires all men under 30 to sign up for service.

After his discharge on Wednesday, Jin said on South Korean app Weverse that the "huggathon" was his idea, and that he had "initially wanted to hug 3,000 fans" but that he had to agree to a smaller number due to safety concerns.

RELATED: BVerse 'BTS, Singing the Stars' Exhibition now open in Quezon City: What to expect

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