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.
I sincerely apologize for the turmoil my Tweet caused!
– Viktor and the team at Hits 93 Toronto
— Hits 93 Toronto (@Hits93Toronto) January 29, 2018
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:
Actually it's because other K-pop fans tried to ride our success even though they bashed us for seeking 'western validation' but now they are being hypocrites and try to bring up their fave group when someone comments about BTS
— IT'S ON⁷ (@ManhiLovelyneon) January 29, 2018
And they want to get recognized and popular by doing nothin
We were working hard so why do they play songs for the whole kpop communtity?
We are requesting for our boys only
And they were shitting on us when we were requesting
— 아야 ♡ moonie (@taevantaekim) January 29, 2018
I see most of you guys calling Armys immature for telling this station not to play 1 hour of K-pop. I'm sorry but you don't understand this situation at all. We all know how hard Armys have worked for bts to get recognition in the states and worldwide+
— Far⁷ (@myluv_ksj) January 29, 2018
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.