Last week, BTS announced plans to pause their musical activities as a group to focus on new personal projects. If this news was understood by fans, the National Association of Singers in South Korea issued a statement on Wednesday asking them to “reconsider their decision”.
To what extent can a music group carry the weight of an entire country’s economy on its back? Last week, BTS announced they were pausing their musical activities as a group to focus on new personal projects. The members explained in a video addressed to the fans to be exhausted and no longer know which direction to take in their career at seven. To better find each other later, they therefore chose to devote more time to their personal lives and to future albums. solo. If this decision was received with intense emotion by their admirers – the ARMYs -, they quickly understood the importance of giving themselves time to breathe, with the need to protect their mental health in mind.
But on the professional side, this announcement did not receive the same support. First, several media around the world suggested that the group was breaking up for good, prompting the HYBE company, under which BTS evolves, to make a quick update, as its stock market started to fall. A few hours later, the leader of the RM group himself wrote a letter on the social network Weverse, in which he also questioned at length the bad information published. “I had never received so many calls since the beginning of our career,” he first commented. “When I looked at the titles and the screenshots that were sent to me, there were a lot of provocations and deliberately chosen keywords (…). It’s not like we didn’t expect it, but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth,” he added, explaining that the content of the video was first and foremost made for their fans with them for nearly 10 years.
“For the sake of the Korean music industry”
On Wednesday, it was this time the National Association of Singers in South Korea who implored the group to “reconsider its decision”, ignoring their explanations or their personal suffering. President Lee Ja-yeon released an official statement picked up by the “Korea Times” in which she said she was “very concerned” to see “the Korean wave centering around BTS, which is the strongest soft power cultural object in the country and in the world, to disappear”. “Perhaps you made this decision after a long thought, but could you reconsider it, for the sake of the Korean music industry?” Going even further, President Lee Ja-yeon took the example of the group’s fans – whom she considers “missionaries of the South Korean cultural wave” -, saying that ARMYs will also disappear. “The tourism industry will suffer and it will be difficult to hope for a future for South Korean culture,” she added. She then tackles the delicate issue of military service, which is compulsory for all men under 30, and which some believe could be one of the reasons for this break as a group. While successive governments, from former President Moon Jae-in to new President Yoon Seok-youl, have never been able to resolve the issue of BTS’s military exemption, Lee Ja-yeon is calling for a change so that idols, like athletes or classical musicians, can also be exempted.
This press release obviously did not fail to anger fans, for whom the well-being of their favorite artists naturally takes precedence over everything else. On Twitter, the hashtag #BTSItsOkayToRest (“BTS, there’s nothing wrong with resting”) was the top topic for the day. The reaction is all the more virulent since at their beginnings, the South Korean music industry gave no gift to the group, from a label that was once without money or power. “So this industry, which never supported them, and did everything to make them fail, now has demands? Leave them alone, they owe you absolutely nothing”, “How daring after the way the media and the industry have treated them for years”, “You can’t change what the rest of the world thinks, but in As ARMY, we have the power to stand up for what BTS wants and that’s what they passed on to us. No one will force them to end their break quickly. They deserve to be happy and rest,” “Asking BTS to come back out of love or admiration is a very different thing than asking them to come back to save a sinking market. They do not have to manage the way you feed your wife and your eight children”, can we read in particular.
“What BTS is doing by sharing their exhaustion will legitimize this malaise”
The statement from the Association of Singers echoes the remarks of RM – Kim Namjoon of his real name – who in the famous video of last week, explained with a rare frankness to which point the middle of K-pop does not “give there is no time for artists to mature”, they are always asking for more albums and content, even if it means losing their inspiration. “You always have to produce more music, always do something, and you don’t have time to grow,” he commented. Faced with economic considerations, artistic and human sensitivity therefore still seems to have difficulty in prevailing.
Recall that in 2020, according to the Hyundai Research Institute, BTS allowed the country to earn 3.5 billion dollars per year. The “New York Times” recalls that even during the pandemic, which has devastated the concert industry, BTS has led to a 58% increase in HYBE’s revenue, according to the company’s year-end reports for 2021 With the relaxation of measures against covid-19, the country hoped to count on the resumption of the concerts of the group. The Korea Institute of Culture and Tourism predicted that a single BTS concert could generate $500 million or more. But for the seven members, the essential is well and truly elsewhere. “It’s time for us to move beyond the spectacular side and think about the kind of message we want to send. (…) It’s time to focus on what I have in my hands and find the solution,” RM told “Weverse” magazine. By focusing on their well-being and mental health, the members have already taken a step forward by opening a discussion that is still difficult in South Korea, especially in the music industry. “What BTS is doing by sharing their exhaustion is going to legitimize this discomfort for those after. They show that we have the right to be exhausted, that the value of work is too high and all the more for the idols”, explained last week to Match Vincenzo Cicchelli, lecturer at the University of Paris-Descartes and researcher at Gemass. “By expressing themselves thus, they showed the limit of the system and that will have a significant impact”, and too bad for those who would try to put them under pressure.
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