Just one week after BTS announced the group will go on hiatus, a South Korean music industry group is attracting the ire of ARMY denizens online after not-so-subtly suggesting the K-Pop superstars’ break might have serious consequences for the continued success of K-Pop worldwide.
In a statement from the Korea Singers Association attributed to president Lee Ja Yeon and republished by The Korea Times, the industry group expressed concern that the BTS phenomenon will be difficult for South Korea to replicate — a strange assumption, given that numerous K-Pop groups have found massive success overseas in recent years.
“I’m concerned that the ‘BTS Hallyu Wave,’ a movement possessing the greatest cultural soft power that the world has ever witnessed, will vanish soon,” Lee said, referring to the Chinese term for the K-Pop boom meaning “Korean Wave.” “In the years leading up to the birth of this movement, it was believed that finding the ‘Next Beatles’ would be a very difficult achievement, and now, we have arrived at a point where it is difficult to hope for the ‘Next BTS’ to emerge any time soon. Thus, there is great concern that the heartbeat of Hallyu will cease.”
ARMY was quick to attack the Korea Singers Association’s statement, chastising the group for placing unrealistic expectations upon BTS, whose members have openly spoken about burnout in the past. The backlash was so fierce that “LEAVE BTS ALONE” quickly rose to the top of Twitter’s trending topics once fans caught wind of the release.
“I did not sign up to be a missionary of Hallyu wave and Korean culture,” one fan wrote on Twitter, while another fan on Reddit wrote, “BTS did not release an hour long video explaining everything for people to guilt trip them to keep working.”
Lee also suggests that, without BTS, South Korea will lose its cultural cachet as a must-visit destination for international K-Pop fans as BTS devotees find other artists or bands to support. “If BTS goes away, the missionaries of Hallyu and Korean culture, ARMYs, also go away,” she said in the statement. “South Korea’s tourism industry will suffer, and it will be difficult to hope for a future for South Korea as a hub of culture in Asia.”
Last week, BTS — comprised of members Jin, Jimin, RM, J-Hope, Suga, V, and Jungkook — broke news of the hiatus to fans during a pre-taped segment as a part of the group’s annual FESTA celebration. A representative for BTS later told Rolling Stone that the break is designed to allow members the opportunity to explore other opportunities outside the confines of the group. “Right now, we’ve lost our direction, and I just want to take some time to think,” RM said during the FESTA video, explaining that “the whole idol system” means K-Pop artists aren’t given the “time to mature.” Jimin also discussed the group’s burnout, calling their efforts to reexamine and reinvent the BTS brand an “exhausting and long process.”
After worried fans wondered whether the hiatus would eventually lead to a complete dissolution of BTS, Jungkook spoke at length about the hiatus in a livestream the following day. “Let me tell you this one more time: We are not going to disband,” he said in the video. “We still have a lot of work to do as a group, and we’re going to keep doing more in the future.” He later added, “BTS is forever.”
The group’s hiatus came days after the release of their expansive anthology album, Proof — a three-CD collection containing fan favorites along with three new songs and a handful of unreleased demos. The group also recently performed at the Grammys, headlined a residency in Las Vegas, and visited the White House to discuss the rise in anti-Asian sentiment in the United States.
J-Hope will be the first BTS member to show off his solo endeavors when he headlines Lollapalooza this summer. Jimin, Suga, and Jungkook also plan to release solo projects in the future.