Gangtok, 25 Oct:

We all are aware of the fresh-faced phenomenon of Korean Pop Culture [K-Pop], more correctly referred to as “Hallyu” or the Korean Wave, jiving its way into global popularity including India with North East region of our country having a long history of being Seoul-stirred.

Many artists believe and have stated in many interviews that a loyal fan base is core to achieving stardom; “fandom” is what they call it exactly, and with social media adding perks to it, relationship between artists and fans is quickly changing, and becoming more intimate.

So how big is the K-Pop fandom in our State of Sikkim?

Earlier this month, a first-of-its-kind meet was held in the capital that had fans of a South Korean boy band, popularly known as BTS, flocking to Gangtok from all over the State.

BTS, The Bangtan Boys/ Beyond The Scene, is a young K-Pop boy band formed in the year 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment and consists of seven members namely Kim Nam Joon [Rap Monster], Kim Seok Jin [Jin], Min Yoon Gi [Suga], Jung Ho Seok [J-Hope], Kim Tae Hyung [V], Park Ji Min [Jimin] and Jeon Jeong-guk [Jungkook].

Their popularity truly exploded globally when they took the world by storm after winning the “Top Social Artist Award” against popular artists like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, etc., during the 2017 Billboards Music Awards on 21 May earlier this year. All this thanks to a massive fan base that stretches across the globe and go by the name - the ARMY [Adorable Representative MC for Youth]!

The BTS and its ARMY seem to have a bond that is one of a kind with the BTS writing a song just for their fans as a show of gratitude on their 3rd Year Anniversary in 2016 entitled “I Know”. And with this, the Billboard declared BTS’s fandom, ARMY, to be the best one around.

Many of us might be unaware, but Sikkim has its own BTS ARMY, an army of likeminded youth sharing similar choice of music and love for the band, and they share their like-mindedness via Instagram through an IG account that goes by the name @bts.sikkim.

@bts.sikkim was started by a group of six young students of Standard XI-XII from Tashi Namgyal Academy and Tashi Namgyal Senior Secondary School, aged between 16-17 years.

With the aim to bring together the BTS ARMY of Sikkim on one social platform and spread awareness about the presence of the band’s fandom in India, they organized the aforementioned fan meet on 01 Oct at Infinity Futsal in Gangtok.

With K-Pop based dance competitions and other related fun games being the main feature of the event, the State BTS ARMY fan meet was supported by Sikkim-based online blogging hub, Sndwch. More than 50 BTS fans from all over Sikkim gathered at Infinity Futsal to celebrate their dedication towards the band.

“We know there are other popular South Korean bands too like EXO, Big Bang and SHINee among others but BTS means more to us because they stay true to themselves. Most of all, we can see their dedication towards their passion and they express what we, their ARMY, mean to them,” says one of the organizers of the Sikkim BTS ARMY fan meet, Tsheten Yangden Bhutia, who is a 16-year-old student of TNA [Std XI].

“Organizing this event along with my companions was a great first-time experience for me. I learned a lot throughout this meet and made tons of friends who shared similar feelings for BTS. I feel proud to call myself a part of the BTS ARMY and that there are so many BTS supporters in our State. BTS has changed my life in ways I cannot express and I want to share the same with others too. The one thing that will be on my bucket list is to cheer for BTS on their LIVE show with light sticks held high and feel the power and vibes of BTS ARMYs from every nook and corner of this world around me,” expresses Ms Yangden.

When asked about the language barrier, she held that the language does not bring any difference to the BTS ARMY as long as they feel and understand their eclectic music.

“Binge-watching Korean movies and dramas helped us pick up many commonly used Korean words and to be honest, the language difference has never affected our love for our boys,” adds Ms Yangden.

She further informed that bts.sikkim is planning to organize next BTS fan meet this December.

“We are hoping to receive a larger crowd in December. I just want all Sikkim BTS ARMYs to unite and help our boys with love and support in every way. Let us not give up hope. Our dream to meet them will surely come true someday!” exclaims Ms Yangden with utmost confidence.

The stronghold of BTS fandom in Sikkim became evident when a resident of Namchi, Pranica Gurung, when asked if she followed BTS exclaimed, “ARMY Fighting!”

Yes, she apparently ended up being a huge fan of the K-Pop boy band, regardless of not following a BTS fan page on social media.

A recent buzz in the BTS fandom world is the band being nominated under five categories at the upcoming Mnet Asian Music Awards’17 [MAMA 2017] which is an annual award show produced by Korean TV Channel, Mnet, scheduled to be held on 25 Nov. The voting lines are open worldwide via sites namely mwave and Qoo10 till 28 Oct and each day, one vote per id generated through various social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc., is accepted.

“I have begged my friends and family members to sign up and cast their votes in favor of BTS for the MAMA 17. I myself have voted more than 20 times till date,” says Ms Gurung.

With this, it is clear that the boom of K-pop, Korean culture in general, has grown into something more as it had made other nationalities love everything about Korean, and even Asian culture. There are already a lot of people that have welcomed the K-pop culture, Sikkimese being amongst them all.