The South Korean supergroup BTS have confirmed they’re taking an indefinite hiatus as a group to “explore some solo projects”, wiping out $1.7 billion (£1.4 billion) in value for the agency behind them.
The group, which has acquired a global legion of fans throughout the rising popularity of K-Pop, had announced their decision during a televised dinner celebrating their ninth anniversary. And nine years now seems to be how long they’ve lasted in full – at least for the time being.
During the dinner, members described how they were “exhausted”, physically and creatively. RM, for instance – who was the first signed member in 2010 and is seen as the group’s leader – said that after BTS’s last few singles he “didn’t know what kind of group we were anymore”.
The news comes after the septet dropped a three-disc anthology of their greatest hits on Friday, titled Proof, which also included new hit ‘Yet to Come (The Most Beautiful Moment)’.
There had been some speculation that South Korea’s compulsory military service had played a factor in the decision with Jin, the oldest member of the group at 29, due to begin his two-year service at the end of the year.
However, that theory has been slightly discredited in South Korean media and statements from the group seem firm that this is a mutual group decision based on personal beliefs.
“We’re going through a rough patch right now, we’re trying to find our identity and that’s an exhausting and long process,” Jin added on the video call dinner.
Further emphasising this is a temporary decision – for now at least – J-Hope, 28, also said the group “should spend some time apart to learn how to be one again”.
The K-Pop stars have made history during their time together, becoming the first all-South Korean act to reign over Billboard’s US top singles chart, which they achieved with their 2020 hit ‘Dynamite’ – the first track they delivered completely in English. They also had the fastest accumulation of No. 1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 since Michael Jackson.
The accolades don’t stop there. They’re also one of just a handful of artists to release four albums that each reached number one spot in the charts in less than two years since The Beatles. Their third Korean-language compilation album, Love Yourself: Answer, also became the first Korean album to be certified platinum.
Grammy nods have inevitably come in, although the group haven’t won anything yet. What they have done, though, is hugely increased the stock and image of their country, making South Korea something of a cultural global powerhouse, and contributing immensely to their nation’s economy. Whether you’re a fan of K-Pop or not, it’s rise in the last decade has been unmissable.
They are the poster boys of that wave, as the best-selling artist in South Korean with over 32 million albums sold. (It’s achievements such as theirs, along with Tottenham Hotspur strike Heung-min Son, that has led the South Korean national assembly to reconsider compulsory military service for those who make a significant contribution to the country’s national standing).
Recently, the group even made an appearance at the White House to deliver a message of anti-Asian racism and were in turn praised by the office of the US President as “youth ambassadors who spread a message of hope and positivity across the world”.
Their financial contribution will of course be felt most acutely in the pockets of the agency who signed the group, Hybe Corporation, which rebranded from Big Hit Entertainment Company in March last year.
The value of the company plunged 28% in Seoul this morning, hitting its lowest valuation on record since it made its trading debut October 2020. It’s for this reason, no doubt, the company were keen to emphasise in a statement that the group will “remain active as a team while taking individual journey to further achieve personal growth.”
Yet just how long they’re hiatus will last – and whether it will eventually morph into a long-term split or not – is so far unknown. Such uncertainty, of course, is the thing markets despise.