(Seoul) On the bus, the 28 Australian tourists are overexcited. Children, adults or grandmothers, all came to South Korea on pilgrimage for the tenth anniversary of BTS, the legendary K-pop boy band they revere.

Wearing purple headbands or hats, the official color of BTS, and wielding huge cut-outs of the faces of their idols, the tour group are members of the Australian chapter of ARMY, BTS’ global fanbase. “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, BTS!” “, they shout in chorus in the coach, before launching into enthusiastic covers of the many hits of BTS, dance movements included.

Fans go on a twelve-day “BTS Tour” in South Korea. Organized in part by the Seoul Tourism Board, their journey passes through a variety of locations associated with the K-pop group across the country.

First stop Tuesday in Seoul: the headquarters of HYBE, the group’s agency, which has become a place of pilgrimage for fans this week, with a giant mural of the septet freshly painted on the wall outside.

Barbara Pena, 48, is on her fifth “BTS trip” to South Korea. It was this real estate agent from Sydney, administrator of the BTS fan club in Australia, who launched the idea of ​​​​the special pilgrimage for the tenth anniversary. It cost about 4600 euros ($6600) for each participant. The game was worth the candle, she believes, believing that BTS “changed his life”.

BTS made her travel, from concert to concert, in countries where she would never have imagined going, like the United States. “I went to Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong on my own, and ended up making friends there,” she says. “And now I have so many memories and experiences to share with my grandchildren! “.

On June 13, 2013, seven young South Koreans calling themselves Bangtan Sonyeondan (“bulletproof scouts”) debuted as a hip-hop group.

Their bizarre name and their music label, one of the smallest in the country, earned them an indifferent reception in the ultra-competitive South Korean music market, forcing them to seek new ways to win over audiences.

In 2018, their third album, Love Yourself: Tear, finally became a worldwide hit.

Their music resonates deeply with fans, according to Ms. Pena, whose eyes fill with tears when she thinks of her favorite song, Love Myself. “There’s a part that says, ‘Why is it so hard to love yourself and so easy to love others?’ and it struck a chord,” she explains.

The group is currently on hiatus, with two of its members doing their mandatory military service. That didn’t stop BTS from releasing a new single last week. And septet leader RM is set to attend part of the celebrations in Seoul, where the city government released a special city map with 13 “hot spots” for BTS fans to visit.

The tourists taken by Ms. Pena did even better: they traveled six hours by road to the eastern province of Gangneung to see a bus stop in front of which BTS had posed for the cover of one of his albums.

Australian fans also visited a Korean barbecue restaurant where BTS once ate, as well as a cafe run by Jimin’s father, one of the group’s members.

For Darrin Goodwin, 52, it was definitely the highlight of the trip. Especially since Jimin’s father hugged him completely unexpectedly after their conversation.

“It was very surreal, it was an honor and a privilege,” comments Mr. Goodwin, still impressed.

He explains that he was not originally a fan of BTS, but that it was his daughter Chelsea, who is also on the trip, who ended up converting him.

“I tried to convince my dad to listen to them, but it didn’t work until he heard the song Dope,” said 24-year-old Chelsea. According to her, BTS is more than just a K-pop group, as it has changed the lives of many fans by teaching them to “love themselves”.

Communing in the love of BTS brought father and daughter together, Chelsea claims, “because we are bound by something in common.”