BTS with their award.


BTS snags K-pop’s highest honor from EXO—and reignites fan rivalries

It's NSYNC versus Backstreet Boys all over again.


Christine Friar


Published Jan 11, 2018   Updated May 22, 2021, 5:07 am CDT

Korean pop group BTS has taken home the grand prize at South Korea’s Golden Disc Awards—its first time receiving the honor—and fans are overjoyed.

The two-day award show is the Korean equivalent of the Grammys and celebrates achievements in music with categories like the song of the year, rookie artist of the year, and best lyrics. BTS has swept Korean award shows for the past two years but had yet to take home the show’s highest honor: the Daesang award, which goes to the year’s biggest artist. There can be up to 12 nominees in the category, and the winner is reportedly chosen by considering physical and digital album sales, an online fan vote, and a final judgment by the awards committee.

The win was announced at the award show in Seoul Thursday and is especially exciting for fans of the group who believed they’d gotten snubbed at November’s MAMA awards in Japan. BTS fans often find themselves rooting against fans of boy band EXO for these awards—’90s kids might recall the Backstreet Boys/NSYNC fan rivalry, where the supergroups were almost always nominated in the same categories—so after EXO took home the MAMA for album of the year this fall, there was some debate among the fandoms as to who the true winner should have been. BTS fans suggested the win might have been orchestrated by EXO’s label, SM Entertainment, and demanded a re-vote. EXO fans disagreed.

Nearly two months later, the fan debate reignited in a big way on Twitter Thursday morning after the BTS Daesang win. EXO had previously taken home the award four years in a row, and if you’re questioning just how powerful this rivalry is, hashtags about the award show trended in the U.S. all morning—in Korean. Add on top the fact that EXO took home a trophy in another big category this year, the “Global Popularity Award,” and you’ve got yourself a grade-A fandom battle over who the One True Boy Band is.

The good news is that no matter which group you stan for, it’s clear that K-pop is continuing its ascent into U.S. mainstream culture.

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*First Published: Jan 11, 2018, 11:30 am CST