I’ve mulled for days and days about how I should write about BTS. You’ll have likely seen global coverage from some of the biggest names in media. Just type 'BTS' into your friendly neighborhood search engine and you’ll see dozens of articles from a variety of mainstream media all trying to capitalise on the clicks that come from the internet-driven fan base that is BTS’ ARMY.

I was also there during the first weekend of June 2019 that saw a group of seven Korean men in their twenties perform at a two-night sold out stop at Wembley Stadium as part of their world tour. Composed of RM, Suga, Jin, Jimin, Jungkook, J-Hope, and V, BTS is now the biggest boyband in the world and they can sing, dance, rap, produce, and compose music. Whether you’re a fan or not, you can’t deny the numbers. The Hyundai Research Institute (HRI) reported that 796,000 foreigners visit South Korea annually because of BTS. The same report found that BTS also generates an estimated amount of 4 trillion won (GBP £2.66 billion) as economic value to the country per year. According to The Korea Foundation, a non-profit public diplomacy organisation, it was reported that BTS lead a 22% increase of Korean Hallyu* fans worldwide in 2018. There’s now calls from a handful of fans that BTS be exempt from South Korea’s mandatory military service due to the above.

For multiple groups of fans I spoke to on day one at Wembley, BTS brought a sense of family and self-acceptance. In a world where we’re often force fed a feed of photoshopped bodies and filtered faces, BTS’ themes of loving yourself and mental health strikes hard with their young audience.

Wrapped round Jungian philosophy, BTS’ latest album Map Of The Soul: Persona, weaves the psychology of extrovert and introvert personalities into their music. It also of course refers to a ‘persona’, a reference to the theatre and the mask we all put on to perform on society’s stage. Later that evening in a heaving open roofed Wembley Stadium, I saw BTS’ own personas appear. Behind the confidence and fire of 'Not Today' were the motivational lyrics 날아갈 수 없음 뛰어 / If you can’t fly, run / 뛰어갈 수 없음 걸어 / If you can’t run, walk/걸어갈 수 없음 기어 / If you can’t walk, crawl. The emotional nakedness of 'The Truth Untold' could be read as a relationship between fan and artist with lines such as 초라한 모습 보여줄 순 없어 / I can’t show you my weakness / 또 가면을 쓰고 널 만나러 가 / So I’m putting on a mask to go see you. It’s lyrics like these that many of the fans I spoke to said was different from any other Kpop act.

Speaking to a young female in her twenties who wanted to remain anonymous, she credits BTS with saving her life. I chose not to delve too much further given her evening had not even started yet but I’m not ready to ignore a young woman’s open thanks to the artist that she somehow connected with despite the obvious barriers. For almost all of the limited number of ARMY I spoke to out of a sold out audience of 60,000, it’s a type of familial love that goes beyond wanting to imagine any one member as your life partner in a juvenile sort of way. Instead, it is an intense call to what can be almost dangerous dedication. It’s all too easy to see why the small percentage can take this love and dedication too far.

It’s a shame then that the mainstream media focuses so much on this small percentage. It’s too often that most (let’s just say it) Western coverage on BTS focuses on the ‘rabid fangirl’ stereotype or the ramblings of a tween in puberty. There’s always this wait to catch out when BTS or another Kpop group is lip synching. There’s always an easy dismissal that BTS too will soon be a distant memory like One Direction or the early days of Justin Bieber. Too often, there are one-off 15 minute video documentaries or articles that highlight the Korean government’s support to exporting culture with a transition to the harsh trainee life. They’re not wrong. There are certainly some dark stories out there featuring extreme diets and slave contracts, to plastic surgery from a young age. The intense Korean publicist overlooking the swarm of foreign press certainly adds to the image of a young artist free during the day only to be locked up by their management by night. My question is why is there an assumption that this happens to all? It certainly feels dismissive and easier to say that we have this aversion to the foreign because they have this terrible side of the industry that isn’t openly talked about. Don’t we equally have our own skeletons in Hollywood’s closet?

Look at Jojo who topped the US Billboard Pop songs chart at 13 years old only to be locked in a contract battle with her record labels for 7 years. Lindsay Lohan who found global fame at 12 after the movie The Parent Trap, and the subsequent media attention on her partying and alcoholism once she grew up. Britney Spears, one of several stars born out of The Mickey Mouse Club in the early 90s and her very publicly documented breakdown in 2007.

For what it’s worth, BTS, under the guidance of Big Hit Entertainment and its CEO Bang Si-hyuk have managed the sudden global interest. Between maintaining positive relationships with all the big networks back in Korea as well as creating new ones with global publishers, BTS seem happy and humble to be where they are now. They’ve certainly achieved many firsts but whether it’s finishing up day one of their sold out two day stops at Wembley Stadium or a casual check in with fans, you’ll find them using social platforms to communicate with ARMY. Rumours are that they also chose to continue dorming with each other despite the trend being individual apartments once you’ve established enough income to do so. Of course, there have been questionable moments but the seven members appear to be comfortable taking each new day and opportunity as a lesson to learn about themselves.

Most importantly, take a leaf from leader RM himself. Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2018, he urged “...we have learned to love ourselves, so now I urge you to ‘speak yourself.’”

*Hallyu (The Korean Wave) refers to the global popularity of South Korea's cultural economy exporting pop culture, entertainment, music, TV dramas and movies.