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BTS announce hiatus, management insists its not a hiatus

By | Published on Wednesday 15 June 2022


BTS are “going through a rough patch right now” and, as a result, are “going on a hiatus” in order to allow the group’s members to develop as solo artists and “find our identity”. But, they promise, they will definitely “return someday even more mature”.

All very interesting statements, but none of which should be taken to mean that BTS are now on hiatus or aren’t working together. Or at least that’s according to their management company Hybe.

The group discussed their upcoming plans in an hour-long video yesterday which was marking the anniversary of the release of their debut album in June 2013. The conversation also followed the release of their latest compilation ‘Proof’ on Friday.

Initially lighthearted, the chat – broadcast on YouTube in Korean with English subtitles – took a more sombre tone about 20 minutes in, as the band’s Suga suddenly announced “we’re going on a hiatus now” – although the subtitles were later changed to read “temporary break” rather than “hiatus”.

After some discussion about whether they should discuss these plans, Suga told his bandmates “we have to talk about the direction we’re taking”.

And so, RM began: “Gathering like this today and shooting content [it’s made me think] ‘I’m glad we’re BTS’ [and] ‘what would I do if we weren’t BTS?’ It made me think I’m happy just being together. I started music and became BTS because I had a message for the world”.

However, he added, of late it’s been harder for him to identify what message he is actually trying to communicate via the band. Things started to change shorty before the pandemic hit, he said. Although they continued to release new music during that period, as they worked on and promoted those tracks, he “realised the group has definitely changed”.

“We have to accept that we’ve changed”, he went on. “For me it was like the group BTS was within my grasp until [2020 singles] ‘On’ and ‘Dynamite’, but after [2021’s] ‘Butter’ and ‘Permission To Dance’, I didn’t know what kind of group we were anymore”.

Both RM and Suga then spoke about the difficultly they now face when writing lyrics for the band’s songs. “Whenever I write lyrics and songs it’s really important what kind of story and message I want to give out, but it was like that was gone now”, RM explained. “I don’t know what kind of story I should tell now”.

“It was always painful trying to squeeze out ideas”, Suga added. “But doing that now compared to seven or eight years ago feels completely different. Back then I had something to say, I just lacked the skills. Now I don’t have anything to say. I don’t know what to say”.

“I’ve always thought that BTS was different from other groups”, RM went on. “But the problem with K-pop and the whole ‘idol’ system is that they don’t give you time to mature. You have to keep producing music and keep doing something”.

“There’s just no time for me to think”, he said. “I have to be aware of who I am and what kind of group BTS is … The group would go on fine if I just did the work I was assigned, but I kept feeling like I was trapped inside myself. I wanted to shed that off for a little bit and leave myself alone to think about what I should be doing now, but the world wouldn’t let me be”.

He then added that it wasn’t just him feeling this way, and that all seven members of the band were “exhausted”. Although, “it feels so wrong to even say that we’re exhausted”, he admitted, because he worries that talking in this way means he and his bandmates are letting down the fanbase.

Though other members countered that they felt that fans would support them, with Jimin adding: “We can’t help but think of our fans no matter what – we want to be the kind of artists that are remembered by our fans. I think now finally we’re starting to think about what kind of artists we each want to be remembered [as]. I think that’s why we’re going through a rough patch right now, we’re trying to find our identity and that’s an exhausting and long process”.

He then revealed that, actually, behind the scenes, the band’s members have already been spending more time on other projects, which is one of the reasons why getting together for this video felt “so fun”. He added: “There’s already so much to talk about today. And if we return after a long time, there’s going to be so much more to talk about then”.

But, the question here is, if the band’s members are going to be spending more time on projects outside of the group before coming back together at some point, how ‘long’ is “a long time”?

Because throughout this incredibly candid chat, it felt like the group were very much talking about having a significant break from each other. So much so that after the discussion was broadcast, the share price of the aforementioned Hybe fell by 27.5% – knocking more than $1.7 billion off its value. Although it later rebounded.

In a statement after the video came out, Hybe insisted that “BTS are not taking a hiatus”, but confirmed that “members will be focusing more on solo projects at this time”.

This is not the first time that the group have announced that they will take a break. They took a short amount of time off in 2019 and then, in December last year, they announced that they were taking an “extended period of rest”. That lasted less than three months, though.

So it is possible that when BTS talk about talking a “long time” to reset and mature, they’re not actually talking about that long a time.

There is, of course, another reason why the band may be taking the decision to focus on their solo work right now – that being the continued issue of military service obligations in South Korea.

This has been a hotly debated topic in the country for a number of years now. Under South Korean law, all able-bodied men must begin serving around two years in the military at some point between the ages of eighteen and 28. There are formal exemptions for athletes and classical musicians with an international following, but nothing for pop acts.

The oldest member of the group, Jin, who is 29, has so far avoided conscription thanks to a change in the law that allowed some pop artists (there were complaints that the amendment was so specific that it could only apply to members of BTS) to defer the start of their military service until the age of 30.

The problem now is that Jin will turn 30 in December this year and the issue still has not gone away. Many oppose any new full-on exemptions for K-pop stars, and that opposition is seemingly and understandably particularly strong among South Korean men in their 20s who have served their time or are preparing to.

While political discussions are ongoing about further amendments to the law, there appears to be a general feeling that the necessary exemption will not be passed by the country’s parliament, meaning that all members of BTS will eventually have to serve time in the military.

This system has scuppered the careers of many K-pop boybands over the years, despite efforts to either keep groups going with fewer members, or allow some members to embark on solo careers while others are doing their military service.

The problem is, it can take several years to get all members of a group through that military service, especially if they’re not all doing it concurrently. Many acts find that, by the time they’ve all done it, their fans have moved on. Arguably, it was older K-pop outfits waning as a result of these military service obligations that gave BTS the opportunity to become South Korea’s top boyband. Whether they can hold that position now remains to be seen.

While the members of BTS have all released solo material during their time in the group, J-Hope will be the first to go all in during this hiatus (or whatever it is). His debut solo album is set for release in July and he will play a headline set at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago later that month, making him the first South Korean artist to headline a major US music festival.

You can watch this very interesting discussion between the members of BTS on YouTube here: