ADuring a pre-recorded dinner this week celebrating their ninth anniversary as a group, K-pop superstars BTS announced that they would be taking a “hiatus.” Over crab and rice wine, rapper Suga got into a serious 40-minute discussion about that choice, including the exhaustion they felt and why exploring their personal tastes through solo projects was so exciting.
“It’s not that we’re breaking up,” he said, laughing at the absurdity of the idea, “we’re just living apart for a while.”
As other members of the world’s best-selling musical act dabbed at their eyes with napkins, RM added, “I want BTS to go on for a long time.” Eventually, Suga concluded, “We have to go through this to do this.”
But that painstaking explanation was quickly lost in the shuffle of the rabid Western news cycle. Outlets got their hands on the word “hiatus” and ran with it. “Are BTS Breaking Up?” asked Esquire. “[BTS] went through a tough time and want to work on solo projects,” ABC News told ABC News, “their millions of loyal fans tonight are very upset knowing how it usually goes,” suggesting viewers that BTS would go the way of others. world-renowned bands from the past like One Direction or NSYNC, who announced a hiatus and never returned.
BTS fans knew better. In a tweet with over 60,000 likes, noted the “good and exciting” parts of BTS’s hiatus. Those familiar with K-pop know that a “break” in the Korean music industry is not the break of Western pop groups of the past. It’s very common for K-pop groups to take months to years off and for members to have thriving solo careers as their groups retreat from the spotlight between releases. Even if they don’t release new music as a group, individual artists often remain active in the public eye.
A break is especially common for BTS-aged boy groups, like fellow K-pop group EXO, who are currently pursuing solo careers while other members are on “break” to complete South Korean military service. compulsory before turning 29. (BTS has already received an extension to 30, and its oldest member, Jin, turns 30 in December.)
All that to say: relax. All is well with BTS and their diehard fans, ARMY.
Seeing the press-inspired confusion, HYBE Entertainment, BTS’s management company, released a statement aimed directly at the press, changing “break” to “temporary break.” On Wednesday, the group’s youngest member, Jungkook, 24, took to popular live-streaming app VLive to set the record straight. “There was so much news about BTS breaking up and stopping all activities and I wanted to clarify that,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t want you to get me wrong, we’re not breaking up.” And it’s not really a break either, he noted. “We are still filming [our reality show] Run BTS,” he said before concluding with a smile, “BTS is forever.
The proof that they are going nowhere is already there. Solo projects have been announced for all seven members, starting with rapper J-Hope who will likely release an album before headlining the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago in July; J-Hope’s mixtape Hope World, as well as RM’s Mono and Suga’s D-2 (released under his alias Agust D) all reached the top 40 of the Billboard 200 upon release.
BTS’ announcement comes hot on the heels of the release of their anthology album, Proof, last week, and a new single, Yet to Come (The Most Beautiful Moment), which brings their current chapter to a warm close and looks to the future. In the track’s music video, the members appear with images symbolic of their time as a group.
Reflecting on how far we’ve come, RM confessed, “We’re not that special or that smart, but the seven of us went towards a common goal with everything we have… We just started from a small place in Nonhyeon-dong and we kind of made it to the White House,” he said, referring to the band’s recent visit to DC. “This version of the universe is the best version I can think of.”