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Global fans flock to Seoul to celebrate BTS anniversary

Despite sweltering temperatures Thursday, the area around the Seoul Sports Complex in southern Seoul transformed into a vibrant sea of purple, as fans gathered to celebrate the 11th anniversary of K-pop megastar BTS. Hours before the 2024 Festa -- an annual event hosted by BTS' agency, BigHit Music -- throngs of fans crowded a subway exit leading to the complex, demonstrating the band's immense popularity. The diverse crowd included fans conversing in Korean, Japanese, English and French. The K-pop septet, which debuted on June 13, 2013, has celebrated its anniversary every year with the "BTS Festa" festival for fans. This year's event was especially special to fans, as Jin, the oldest member of BTS, joined the celebration fresh from completing his mandatory military service Wednesday. His presence heightened the excitement among fans, who are eagerly awaiting the reunion of the full group in 2025, when all members will have completed their military service. In South Korea, all able-bodied men are requir ed to serve at least 18 months in the military. Jin is scheduled to give out hugs to 1,000 fans who won a raffle event Thursday afternoon and later hold a meet-and-greet that will also be livestreamed on Weverse. "We're very excited that Jin is back. It's been a year and a half, and we've missed him very much. It feels like the beginning of them coming back together, even if there's still a long way to go," said Doria, a 34-year-old ARMY from France, who visited the ground event with two friends. ARMY is the name of BTS' famous global fandom. Beyond the main events, the complex offered various fan engagement activities, such as a capsule toy machine dispensing BTS song lyrics, an upcycling booth using plastic bottle caps, and a space for fans to create and display diary entries. Merchandise stalls selling commemorative keyrings, T-shirts and hoodies also drew large crowds. A giant electronic display at the venue's front comforted fans with handwritten letters from BTS members currently serving in the mili tary. "The weather is hot, but it's okay because it's fun!" said a South Korean fan who requested the alias Donna Kim. She waited in line to pick up merchandise items she had ordered online. She said she took leave from work to attend the festival and planned to stay until night for Jin's "fan meeting" event, excited about having won a lottery spot. "One of my friends even was picked for the hugging event. How lucky she is!" she said. "Another year will pass soon. I love BTS!" Rachal Moon, an American working in South Korea as a math teacher, enjoyed interactive activities like throwing plastic balls at her visiting mother in a photo zone. "It's exciting that Jin did well in his military service and finished it up. And I think next year for Festa, almost all of them will be finished with their military service," she said. She advised BTS to enjoy their prime time without worries. "Congratulations on 11 years. Eleven is a great prime number. You're in your prime. Enjoy it," she added. Source: Yonhap N ews Agency

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