On June 14, BTS fans—or ARMY—received difficult news. The wildly popular K-pop band announced they were going on an indefinite hiatus.
The announcement came during the group’s ninth anniversary dinner. After nearly a decade together, members—RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook—said it was time to scale back group activities and pursue solo things.
The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew I was being selfish, but I was not ready to part with the group just yet. I was hoping for new music and more albums. I even set aside specific vacation dates in the event a world tour was announced. My friend and I mourned together through Twitter DMs, and shed tears over the news.
It’s true that there have been signs that BTS would be slowing down and entering a new chapter as a group. They made separate Instagram accounts, and J-Hope was recently announced as a solo headliner at this year’s Lollapalooza. The biggest hint was the release of their anthology album, Proof, a few days prior to their hiatus announcement. The album featured the group’s greatest hits, along with three new singles. One of the new songs, “Yet To Come,” which reflected on the band’s career together. “Yeah, the past was honestly the best. But my best is what comes next,” they sing. “You and I, the best moment is yet to come.” The song now holds greater meaning to me when I listen to it.
I felt guilty for wanting BTS to continue performing together. The truth is, they have been working non-stop since the pandemic began. They deserve a break of any kind, even if it’s from each other. And if the biggest band in the world can admit that, perhaps we should take a page from their book too.
During the hiatus announcement, the group members of BTS discussed everything from burnout, writer’s block and the impact the pandemic had on their plans. They even opened up about the pressure of the K-pop industry, and how difficult it is to strive for perfection.
“When I say I want to take a break, it feels like I’m doing something bad,” band leader RM said with tears in his eyes. “I’m scared of you being disappointed in us.”
During their announcement, I discovered BTS had originally planned to go on hiatus after their world tour in 2020. With that canceled due to COVID-19, they still carried on with a jam-packed schedule. In November 2020, the band released an album called Be, which was inspired by the pandemic. They also came out with English-language hits including “Dynamite,” “Butter” and “Permission to Dance.” When it was safe to do so, they performed in front of thousands of fans in Los Angeles, Seoul and Las Vegas. And just last month, they went to the White House to speak with President Joe Biden about anti-Asian hate.
The fact that RM even revealed his deepest feelings to the world says a lot. As Asians, it’s not common to voice out how tired and exhausted we are. Oftentimes, there’s a stigma in speaking out, as the pressure to do well for our loved ones is held to the utmost importance.
It also didn’t take long for their hiatus announcement to be turned into a media frenzy. BTS’ management company HYBE released a statement shutting down rumours of disbandment, saying “BTS are not taking a hiatus. Members will be focusing more on solo projects at this time.” Jungkook even held an hour-long livestream to clarify what was being reported in the news, assuring fans that “BTS is forever.”
As fans, it’s easy to forget that K-pop idols are not God-like beings, but humans, just like us. What I love most about BTS is their ability to say they need to take a pause to focus on themselves, to grow as people and pursue their own dreams. It’s difficult to leave at the height of your career in order for self-care and growth. And while I’m saddened by the news of their break, perhaps it’s something we try for ourselves too.
“What I love most about BTS is their ability to say they need to take a pause to focus on themselves, to grow as people and pursue their own dreams. It’s difficult to leave at the height of your career in order for self-care and growth. And while I’m saddened by the news of their break, perhaps it’s something we try for ourselves too.”
Since their debut in 2013, BTS has been beloved for their messages of self-love and hope in their songs. Often referencing darker themes including depression and mental health, they have been an example of what it means to uphold toxic masculinity.
I discovered BTS in January 2020, just before the world turned upside down with the COVID-19 pandemic. It was refreshing to see men – especially Asian men – speak so frankly about often taboo topics. Enjoying their music reminded me to slow down and enjoy life – something I desperately needed as a working journalist. As I worked from home, the band became a source of comfort and joy. Through the group, I also found companionship through fellow fans online. Together, we dreamed of seeing BTS live when it was safe to do so. That dream was realized this past April, when I got to see them perform twice in Las Vegas. It was as if I was meant to be there, because those were also the last performances before BTS’ hiatus.
Knowing how much BTS has done for me, I think it’s time I give them the space to grow as people. And in turn, I’m also going to take time to focus on myself.
Just as BTS kept us grounded during the pandemic, they’re reminding us how important self-care really is. Their break is an incentive for us to try something different, whether it’s a new career path, breaking off a toxic relationship or traveling the world alone.
“We’re each going to take some time to have fun and experience a lot of things,” said Jungkook during his band’s anniversary dinner. “We promise we will return someday even more mature than we are now.”
So let’s do that for ourselves too, and come back happier and fuller people.
Samantha Lui is a journalist and radio producer. Her work has appeared on CBC, VICE, NBC Asian America, Huffington Post Canada, Refinery29 and FLARE. She previously spent a summer interning at Hong Kong’s english daily newspaper, South China Morning Post. Samantha is passionate about featuring diverse perspectives in her stories, and often writes about pop culture, race and identity. When she’s not thinking about her next story, she likes taking food pictures at all angles, thrifting and editing videos. You can learn more about her at samanthalui.ca
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