ATEEZ Around the World: A Journey Through the K-Pop Group’s First World Arena Tour

Only Hongjoong, Seonghwa, Yunho, Yeosang, San, Wooyoung, and Jongho are sitting in the front of me. A few hours earlier, an official statement It was revealed the eight-member, Mingi, was experiencing muscle aches and therefore skipping that night’s fanssign event to be in top shape for their Newark concert happening two days later.

In November 2020, Mingi went on a hiatus due to psychological anxiety, sitting out of the group’s promotions for an eight-month period until July 2021, when KQ Entertainment — the group’s agency — announced he was ready to come back. “We’ve learned the hard way that we can’t work continuously,” Hongjoong tells Teen Vogue after explaining Mingi’s absence at the fansign. Their busy schedule doesn’t allow much downtime, but they’ve learned to prioritize rest when the chance for it pops up. “Our fans are always asking us to rest more, but I swear we do!” Yunho claims.

Trying to decode the recipe behind ATEEZ’s exploding success is not a simple task, but authenticity, empathy, and drive are vital components of the formula. There’s a sense of normalcy in the way they present themselves to their fans, a sort of level-headed compass that helps blur the idol-fan hierarchy, which allows both sides to be comfortably vulnerable.

All these elements have been essential to mold the unbreakable bond that ties ATEEZ with their fans — known as ATINY— and although social media has been a crucial part of it, going utterly digital for the past two years was tough. “For so long it was only the cameras and us, it feels surreal to perform in front of them again,” says San. “To be honest, I feel nervous,” Seongwha chimes in, admitting multiple emotions are running through him. “But I’m also very eager to show our fans how much we’ve grown as artists since the last time they saw us.”

Just as every other human inhabiting the earth at the moment, ATEEZ found themselves struggling with the distress of living in lockdown. For a squad of eight young men who have a lot of irons in the fire, the virus that put the world on pause in 2020 interrupted what was to have been their first worldwide arena tour. “We were just days, literally only a few days away from kicking off our tour, so it was hard to bear,” Hongjoong recalls. “It was sad and frustrating, but our fans got us pumped up,” San says. “We communicated through social media and kept the communication going, and I think that allowed us to push through and have fun every day with them.”

For Wooyoung, the extra time opened the door to dig deeper into filming and editing, a passion he’s always had but never got the chance to devote time to. “Now that we’re traveling overseas after a long break, I have lots of scenes I want to film,” he says. “That’s why I bring a camera with me everywhere now.”

Parallel to our chat, a small auditorium venue on the opposite side of the slowly fills up. Only 100 fans gained access to the fansign, and while they patiently wait for the clock to hit seven, anticipation is high. A long table and 14 empty chairs tease what’s about to go down on stage. Traditionally at a K-pop fansign, fans get the chance to sit — or stand — right in front of their idols for about one or two minutes, ask questions, get their albums autographed, take selfies, and even hold hands. Due to Covid-19 safety measures, however, clear acrylic panels stand in between the group and the fans, though the extra precaution doesn’t have an impact on the joyful atmosphere.