A picture of BTS's oldest member, Jin, in the concept photos for the group's anthology album Proof.
(Big Hit/HYBE)

BTS’ Jin Offered a Free Hug Event for Fans. Some Entitled Attendees Took Things Too Far

For any artist, having fans is great! You have people who love what you do and want to see you succeed. But sometimes fans can take things too far, which is exactly what happened to BTS’s Jin when he hosted a free hug event for 1000 lucky fans at the BTS Festa on June 13.

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Jin is the first BTS member to finish his mandatory military service that all young men in South Korea must participate in. Fans have mourned the loss of their favorite male K-pop band, but with Jin’s release, the countdown is now on for the rest to complete their service and return to making music. BTS has always had a very strong, often intense, fanbase. It’s one of the largest fanbases in the world, with the fans having dubbed themselves the ARMY (Adorable Representative M.C for Youth).

Now certain members of the ARMY have earned the ire of the rest for having acted inappropriately at Jin’s free hug event. During the free hug event, which was meant to allow fans (the majority of which are young women) a light hug with the singer, two fans allegedly pushed their luck. Fans filming the event saw that at least two fans tried to kiss the singer, either on the neck or cheek, forcing Jin to have to pull away.

Fans have since posted short clips and screenshots of the incident on social media platforms, sharing their disgust at the women who they believe ruined a perfectly wholesome event. The images show Jin’s face looking uncomfortable as he leans away from the woman accosting him.

What are the ramifications?

For starters, the women in question have earned the ire of the ARMY, and if you’ve ever been on their bad side that is an extremely scary place to be. The day after the event, June 14, Seoul Songpa Police Station confirmed that a complaint had been filed through the National Petition System, addressing a potential violation of the Sexual Violence Punishment Act.

Another fan at the event, writing anonymously as “A” on an online fan forum, said they had reported the incident. “I reported a violation of Article 11 of the Sexual Violence Punishment Act, ‘molestation in a crowded place,’ through the National Petition System,” they wrote. According to reports, the police launched a preliminary investigation into the incident with a representative telling TenAsia, “The BTS Jin case is currently in the preliminary investigation stage. The victim’s wishes are important, so we are in contact with his agency.”

Why is this important?

Protesters sit in the street, with one holding a large sign reading "I'm with her" with arrows pointing outward in all directions
In 2018, Seoul saw mass protests against sexism and a growing trend of nonconsensual hidden camera pornography (Jean Chung/Getty Images)

For starters, any form of physical contact that is not consented to can be problematic, especially when that physical contact is intimate. While a kiss on the cheek may not mean much to some people, especially those from cultures where it’s the norm, in other cultures it is a huge invasion of personal space. If the event was listed as a free hug event then that’s all that was being offered, nothing more. For a fan to take advantage of that offer is extremely disrespectful and an abuse of the setting and the goodwill of the host, Jin.

Celebrities are often placed in situations where fans think they can behave how they like with them, not valuing their privacy and boundaries. Fans can develop parasocial relationships with celebrities they love and admire, and forget that just because they are public figures does not mean we own them and they are well within their rights to set boundaries. Incidents like the above need to be dealt with accordingly, or it can signal to others in the future that there are no consequences for their actions, which could then potentially escalate further.

It is now down to Jin and his management company, Hybe, as to how they would like to move forward. Will they make an example of the women and use the incident as a warning to others who may think of acting in a similar manner? South Korea has a growing sexual assault problem, predominantly by men towards women, and is seen by many as having an extremely misogynistic culture. While it is important for this instance of a woman assaulting a man to be taken seriously, we also wish that women who suffer the same and much worse are also afforded the level of support and concern from authorities as Jin has received.

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Laura Pollacco
Laura Pollacco (she/her) is a contributing writer here at The Mary Sue, having written for digital media since 2022 and has a keen interest in all things Marvel, Lord of the Rings, and anime. She has worked for various publications including We Got This Covered, but much of her work can be found gracing the pages of print and online publications in Japan, where she resides. Outside of writing she treads the boards as an actor, is a portrait and documentary photographer, and takes the little free time left to explore Japan.