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BTS to take a break as K-pop band members announce ‘hiatus’ to pursue solo work

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The seven “exhausted” members of the K-pop supergroup BTS have announced that they are taking time out from the band to focus on their solo careers.

The globally popular artists, who are credited with generating billions of dollars for the South Korean economy, dropped the bombshell during their streamed annual dinner on Tuesday night, part of a celebration that marks their anniversary as a group.

“We’re going into a hiatus now,” said Suga, 29, about 20 minutes into the clip, which was posted on the group’s official YouTube channel.

But Hybe, the entertainment company behind the band, later said the group were not taking a hiatus and would be continue to work on projects as a group as well as individually.

“BTS are not taking a hiatus. Members will be focusing more on solo projects at this time,” the statement said, but did not give details.

BTS’s devotees, collectively known as Army, flooded social media with messages of support. “I just want to give them a hug”, one fan said in comments reported by Yonhap news agency.

Another wrote: “I’ve anticipated this moment for a long time, but I didn’t expect it today. “The name BTS will continue with Army like a tattoo that doesn’t disappear.”

A female fan described the move as “courageous”.

“It takes so much courage to leave a place where you have it all in order to challenge yourself and reach an upgrade version of who you are,” she said. “BTS is teaching me another important lesson.”

At Tuesday’s dinner, J-Hope, RM, Suga, Jungkook, V, Jin and Jimin spoke in Korean – while a video of the meeting included English subtitles – about why they had decided to take a break.

RM, 27, said that after BTS’s last few singles he “didn’t know what kind of group we were any more”, adding later the band’s members were “exhausted”.

“I’ve always thought that BTS was different than other groups,” he added. “But the problem with K-pop and the whole idol system is that they don’t give you time to mature.”

Some K-pop watchers speculated that South Korea’s military service requirement may have been a factor. Jin, the oldest member of the group, is due to begin almost two years serving in the army by the end of this year.

The national assembly is discussing a revision to the law to allow exemptions for people who make a considerable contribution to South Korea’s international standing.

However, South Korean media have speculated that the bill is unlikely to pass due to widespread opposition among among men in their 20s, a large proportion of whom voted for the new president, Yoon Suk-yeol.

During the video chat, Jimin, 26, said the members were “slowly trying to figure things out now” and that “we’re starting to think about what kind of artists we each want to be remembered by our fans”.

“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 said.

By the end of the dinner, several of the members of the group behind songs such as Dynamite and Butter grew tearful as they thanked their supporters.

J-Hope, 28, said the group “should spend some time apart to learn how to be one again”.

“I hope you don’t see this is a negative thing,” the artist implored fans. “And see that it’s a healthy plan.”

Suga clarified that this wasn’t a break-up: “It’s not that we’re disbanding – we’re just living apart for a while.”

Jungkook, 24, added that “we promise we will return someday even more mature than we are now”, and asked for the “blessing” of fans.

BTS has said they were going on short breaks before, first in 2019 and later in December 2021.

The news comes just days after the group released Proof, an anthology album that included a new single, Yet To Come (The Most Beautiful Moment).

J-Hope said that time apart could help BTS “become a stronger group,” and that the time was “important ... for BTS’ second chapter.”

“I hope all our members stay healthy while they spend time on our own,” added the singer, who is slated to headline Chicago’s Lollapalooza on his own later this summer.

Record-breaking band

BTS’s label enjoyed a surge in profits during the pandemic, despite holding fewer concerts. The septet is the first all-South Korean act to reign over Billboard’s US top singles chart, a milestone they achieved with Dynamite, the first BTS song sung completely in English.

They are also one of few acts since The Beatles to release four albums that hit number one in the US in less than two years. The group has twice been nominated for a Grammy but has yet to win.

BTS recently made headlines for visiting the White House to deliver a message to Joe Biden on the fight against anti-Asian racism.

The floppy-haired stars, dressed in matching dark suits and ties with white shirts, joined White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at the briefing room podium before meeting Biden.

Suga appealed for tolerance, saying, “it’s not wrong to be different. I think equality begins when we open up and embrace all of our differences.”

The White House praised BTS as “youth ambassadors who spread a message of hope and positivity across the world”.

  • Additional reporting by Reuters