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Exhausted, South Korean group BTS hits the pause button

Calling themselves “exhausted”, K-pop group BTS has announced a “pause” for each of its seven young men to focus on their own journey, after the meteoric career of this boy band which generates billions of dollars for the South Korean economy.

Their label HYBE, which tumbled on the stock market Wednesday morning the day after this news, tried to mitigate the information by assuring AFP that the seven boys would continue to work together.

The sudden announcement of this “break”, which had the effect of a bomb on social networks, was launched Tuesday during a dinner broadcast on the Internet to mark the ninth anniversary of the group formed by seven artists from a twenty years. In a very relaxed and informal style, the seven in jeans and T-shirts converse around a beautiful wooden table, with bottles of wine and beer, surrounded by purple and blue balloons.

One of them, RM, 27, explains, with tears in his eyes and a knot in his throat, that after several nominations for the Grammy Awards — the awards of the American music industry — they “don’t know which band they train” exactly, adding that some members are “burned out”. “I always thought BTS was different from other groups…but the problem with K-pop and the whole star system is that you don’t have time to mature,” continues the young man to millions of fans and the global music industry.

BTS is considered a pump to generate billions of dollars in spinoffs for South Korea’s economy and in 2021 recorded record revenue of more than $1 billion, thanks to online content and album sales. But according to RM, the band “needs to constantly produce music and do something”. “In ten years, I have changed and I need to think and have time for myself”, blows the artist.

One of his partners, Suga, then announces that BTS “will now take a break”. “They will launch individual and team projects in parallel,” assured AFP the HYBE label, whose share fell 27% on Wednesday morning in Seoul. Another member, Jimin, 26, adds that the septet was “little by little trying to understand” what was happening to them and “to think about the memory that everyone wanted to leave with their fans”.

Jimin, who spoke like his comrades in Korean and whose words were subtitled in English on the video, also recognizes that BTS “is going through a difficult period, (that he) is looking for (his) identity, a long and exhausting”. At the end of the dinner, the “21st century pop icons” according to their label Big Hit – authors of the hits “Dynamite” and “Butter” – crush a few tears and express their gratitude to their fans, grouped under the banner “d ‘army”. “It’s not that we’re ending the group,” Suga assured, “we’re just living separately for a while.”

And Jungkook, 24, to promise that “we will come back one day, even more mature than we are today”, asking for the “blessing” of their fans. They showed understanding by posting tens of thousands of comments under the Youtube video. “I really love the way they are honest,” says one. “These are people like us. They can be tired and exhausted. They deserve to rest and enjoy what they love to do,” said another.

K-pop culture expert Lee Moon-won regrets a “confusing” and “unclear” announcement. “It seems that what they meant was that BTS will continue their side group activities (like on YouTube) while pursuing a solo career,” he told AFP, while not stepping out. no new albums as a band.

“It would have been more appropriate if the label first released a statement detailing clearly what this meant,” Mr. Lee said, adding that it was a bad decision to ask the band to announce this news, which did not fail to capsize the fans. BTS, which released an anthology album (“Proof”) on Monday, had already announced “breaks” in 2019 and 2021. But this time, the group “needs a change” and wants to “start a new chapter”, insists J -Hope, another member of the septet.

South Korean artists were invited by President Biden to the White House on May 31 to denounce racism against Asians in the United States. The group had already been invited twice to address the UN, in 2018 and 2021, about climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.


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