Korean boy band BTS is popular in China. Photo: Asia Times fiiles / AFP

South Korea’s Incheon International Airport was the site of unusual excitement on Thursday as BTS arrived at the hub en route to their upcoming October 11 concert in Saudi Arabia.

Even though the lads were dressed down in low-key travel style – some were wearing caps, hoodies, shades and anti-pollution masks – nobody was fooled. A press pack was waiting in the terminal and the “oohs” and “aahs” of fans reverberated from the roof.

Video showed the septet being shepherded through the scrum by a phalanx of bodyguards toward a police cordon at the departure exit and one reporter called: “How are you?”

“We’ll do our best,” replied Jin.

The Bangtan Boys will be shaking up the King Fahd International Stadium in Saudi Arabia on Saturday in a performance that will reportedly be livestreamed for global fans. The return to live shows marks the end of an extended break for Asia’s numero uno pop sensations. BTS has been on holiday since August 11.

It was a long – and long-deserved – vacation. In fact, it had been their first real break from their killer schedule of practicing vocals and dance moves, recording music, crafting videos, performing shows – all while keeping their army of fans updated with a constant drip-feed of social media bytes. That has been their lot since hitting the scene in 2013.

K-pop kings in Saudi

The Saudi concert came at the request of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Hammered by allegations of human rights abuses, and laboring under a perception that it is an austere, conservative culture with a harsh judicial system, Saudi Arabia has been working to upgrade its image in recent months, partly by inviting international acts.

Over the past several months, the kingdom has hosted performers including Mariah Carey, Enrique Iglesias and the Black Eyed Peas, Al Jazeera reported. However, in July, US rapper Nikki Minaj cancelled a show in Saudi, citing the rights of women and LGBTQ persons.

BTS, in an interview with Hollywood Reporter, were discrete about the invitation. “I wouldn’t say it was easy,” RM said of the decision.”But we were officially invited.”

“To put it simply, if there’s a place where people want to see us, we’ll go there,” added Jimin.

On Twitter, fans were posting and reposting videos of the Saudi capital – and Saudi would appear to be ready. The Arabic-language Saudi ARMY Twitter feed has 29,000 followers.

Still, not all fans were delighted. “OK am the only one feeling sad?? it feels like their break is way too short. i want them to rest and relax more,” posted Twitter user Magicshop.

Following the Riyadh date, BTS return home to reunite with Korean fans in a trifecta of concerts to be held on October 26, 27 and 29.

Leave a comment