K-pop Group BTS Accused of Catering to 'Authoritarian Regime' After Historic Concert in Riyadh

The hugely-famous K-pop group BTS are facing backlash from fans following a now historic performance in Saudi Arabia.

On Friday, the seven-member boy band became the first non-Arab artists to play a stadium gig in the country—arriving per the request of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

The concert, held at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, marked the group's first on-stage appearance after a five-week break in the middle of their "Love Yourself: Speak Yourself" world tour. The venue—which opened its doors to women for the first time in 2017—seats up to 70,000 people. Approximately 30,000 were in attendance, according to reports.

While the unprecedented tour stop was embraced by many of BTS' fans, others have criticized the international pop sensations for catering to an "authoritarian regime," using the hashtag #BTSDontGo on social media.

The show, which was first announced in July, eventually caught the attention of the Human Rights Fund (HRF), a nonprofit organization with mission of "uniting the world against tyranny."

"Rather than using their platform to denounce the Saudi regime's abuses, BTS chose to whitewash the regime's human rights violations by performing in Riyadh today. HRF calls on celebrities to think twice before endorsing authoritarian regimes," HRF tweeted Friday.

Shortly after, the organization received backlash of its own.

Another Twitter user responded to the thread in defense of the concert, tweeting: "Cultural isolation does not bring down authoritarian regimes. It strengthens it. It is through positive cultural exchange that we change the world."

Others acknowledged that it was "too late" to do anything about the situation.

Earlier this week Forbes reported that BTS, which stands for Bangtan Sonyeondan (or Bulletproof Boy Scouts), accounts for $4.65 billion of South Korea's gross domestic product (GDP). They are the first group since the Beatles to score three chart-topping albums on the Billboard 200 in less than a year—with their latest EP selling 3.5 million copies worldwide, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"I wouldn't say it was easy," BTS member RM told The Hollywood Reporter of the group's decision to play in Riyadh. "But we were officially invited. It's been a while since we've performed in the Middle East — I guess the last time was 2015 in Dubai."

"To put it simply, if there's a place where people want to see us, we'll go there. That's really how we feel," band mate Jimin added.

BTS will wrap their international tour in Seoul with final performances on October 26, 27 and 29.

BTS
Kim Tae-hyung, Park Ji-min, Jungkook, Suga, Kim Seok-jin, RM and J-Hope of BTS perform on "Good Morning America" on May 15, 2019 in New York City. On Friday BTS became the first outside group to perform in a solo stadium in Saudi Arabia. Noam Galai/Getty Images
K-pop Group BTS Accused of Catering to 'Authoritarian Regime' After Historic Concert in Riyadh | World