Ata pre-recorded dinner this week celebrating their ninth anniversary as a group, the K-pop superstars BTS announced they would be taking a “hiatus”. Over crab and rice wine, rapper Suga began an earnest, 40-minute discussion of that choice, including the exhaustion they felt and why exploring their personal tastes through solo projects was so thrilling.
“It’s not that we’re disbanding,” he said, laughing at the absurdity of the idea, “we’re just living apart for a while.”
As other members of the best-selling musical act in the world dabbed their eyes with dinner napkins, RM added, “I want BTS to go on for a long time.” Eventually Suga concluded, “We have to go through this to do that.”
But that careful explanation was quickly lost in the shuffle of the rabid western news cycle. Outlets got a hold of the word “hiatus” and ran with it. “Is BTS breaking up?” asked Esquire. “[BTS] have hit a rough patch and want to work on solo projects,” said ABC News, “their millions of loyal fans tonight very upset, though, knowing how this usually goes,” suggesting to viewers that BTS would go the route of other globally recognized groups of the past such as One Direction or NSYNC, who announced a hiatus and never returned.
BTS fans knew better. in to tweet with more than 60,000 likes, one noted the “good and exciting” parts of the BTS hiatus. Those familiar with K-pop know that a “hiatus” in the Korean music industry is not the hiatus of western pop groups past. It is very common for K-pop groups to take breaks of months to years and for members to have thriving solo careers as their groups recede from the spotlight between releases. Even if they don’t release new music as a group, the artists often individually remain active in the public eye.
A hiatus is especially common for male groups of BTS’s age, like fellow K-pop group EXO, who are currently pursuing solo careers as other members are on “hiatus” to complete mandatory South Korean military service before they turn 29. (BTS has already been given an extension to age 30, and its oldest member, Jin, will turn 30 in December.)
All this to say: relax. All is well with BTS and their diehard fans, ARMY.
Noting the confusion inspired by the press, HYBE Entertainment, the management company of BTS, released a statement aimed directly at the press, changing “hiatus” to “temporary break”. On Wednesday, the group’s youngest member, 24-year-old Jungkook, took to the popular livestreaming app VLive to set the record straight. “There was so much news about BTS breaking up and stopping all activities and I wanted to clear that up,” he said, laughing. “I don’t want you to misunderstand, we are not disbanding.” And it’s not really a hiatus, either, I’ve noted. “We are still filming [our reality show] Run BTS,” he said before closing with a smile, “BTS is forever.”
The evidence that they aren’t going anywhere is already out there. Solo projects have been announced from all seven members, starting with rapper J-Hope who will probably release an album before he headlines 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 pseudonym Agust D) all cracked the top 40 of the Billboard 200 upon release.
BTS’s announcement comes just after the release of their anthology album, Proof, last week, and a new single, Yet to Come (The Most Beautiful Moment), that warmly closes out their current chapter and looks towards the future. In the track’s music video, the members appear with symbolic imagery from across their time as a group.
Reflecting on how far they had come, RM confessed, “We’re not that special or smart but the seven of us went towards a united goal with all we’ve got … We just happened to start out from a small place in Nonhyeon- dong and somehow made our way to the White House,” he said, referring to the group’s recent visit to DC. “This version of the universe is the best version I can possibly think of.”