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K-pop fans just shut down a Canadian radio K-pop special

A war between fan groups ended the radio show before it began.


Jay Hathaway

Internet Culture

Published Jan 30, 2018   Updated May 22, 2021, 2:45 am CDT

A popular Canadian radio station has canceled its plan to launch a Korean pop music show after fans of one K-pop band revolted on social media.

Toronto’s Hits 93 posted a multi-tweet announcement on Monday announcing that the planned K-pop hour was canceled and apologizing for “offending” fans. “It wouldn’t be wise … considering the outpouring of opinions on this matter,” the station tweeted.

According to entertainment blog Asian Junkie, that outpouring of opinions was mostly coming from fans of one popular group, BTS. But why would K-pop fans want to cancel a K-pop radio show? It’s … complicated.

BTS is arguably the biggest boy band in K-pop, with a devoted social media following in both Korea and the West. The fans call themselves “BTS ARMY,” and they made BTS the “top social artist” of 2017, according to Billboard. BTS is poised for a huge breakout in North America, and it’s the first K-pop group to get mainstream U.S. radio play. That means huge bragging rights for ARMY, but now that they’ve helped their faves reach the top, they want to pull up the ladder.

Specifically, they want to block rival group EXO from catching back up. EXO debuted before BTS and dominated the K-pop charts for a few years—then, in 2016, BTS’ album Wings broke EXO’s records. EXO almost reclaimed the top spot with The War in 2017, and the social media war between ARMY and EXO’s fanbase, called “EXO-Ls,” has been raging ever since.

According to Asian Junkie, ARMY is upset at Hits 93 for planning to play other K-pop artists—possibly including EXO—when they feel BTS fans should be given sole credit for breaking K-pop in North America. Strange as that explanation sounds, tweets from BTS fans seem to back it up:

Complicating matters even further, it seems ARMY is upset that fans of other groups have criticized them for campaigning so hard for BTS in the U.S. They’ve been accused of “begging” and “seeking Western validation,” and they’re retaliating by trying to block other bands from North American airplay.

Neither fandom comes out looking great here, but the incident does speak volumes about how fervent K-pop stans can be. At this point, it’s not a matter of “if” or “when” K-pop comes to the West—it’s already happened online, and it’s happening on the radio whether ARMY likes it or not.

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*First Published: Jan 30, 2018, 3:25 pm CST