For BTS fans in South Korea, there's resignation as the band takes a break Some fans say they can relate to the artists' need to pause. For Korean stars, "in exchange for a chance at worldwide fame, they give up a lot of control over their own life," a K-pop expert says.

For BTS fans in South Korea, there's resignation as the band takes a break

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Why did BTS take a break? NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports on the South Korean boy band.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO MORE DREAM")

BTS: (Singing) I wanna big house, big cars and big rings. But (singing in Korean) I don't have any big dreams. (Singing in Korean).

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: They've gone from obscurity to the biggest K-pop act and one of the most popular groups in the world. But last week, the band released this video explaining why they need to hit pause for a while.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KIM NAM-JOON: (Through interpreter) After 10 years of living as BTS and working on all our schedules, it's physically impossible for me to mature anymore.

KUHN: Kim Nam-joom, known as RM, is one of the group's rappers. He said they had lost sight of what the band BTS is and what they want to say. And he had some criticism for the K-pop industry.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KIM: (Through interpreter) The problem with K-pop and the whole idol system is that they don't give you time to mature. You have to keep producing music and keep doing something. After I get up in the morning and get my makeup done, there's no time left for growth.

KUHN: The band insists that this is a hiatus. It's not goodbye. But that's what some fans are afraid of. Fernanda Bedin is 30 and from Las Vegas. She was sitting outside the headquarters of HYBE, BTS's management company, whose stock price slumped on the news of the band's break.

FERNANDA BEDIN: We don't know. The day after tomorrow, maybe they get so successful in the solo career, they don't want to go back. I don't know. Like, I just wish them, like, to be happy, you know?

KUHN: Some BTS artists will do solo projects. All will have to perform at least 18 months of mandatory military service, the oldest of them as early as the end of this year. Many fans were dismayed by news of the hiatus, but they say they can relate to the artists' need for growth. Nineteen-year-old Rachel Borromeo is a Swedish college student.

RACHEL BORROMEO: Since they have been a part of my life for a long time, it feels like I've grown with them. And - I don't know - it's - growing as a person is never bad, and especially if it's like benefits you and helps find or search for your identity.

KUHN: BTS's criticism of the K-Pop industry isn't surprising, given their previous social criticism and activism. That includes their 2020 donation of a million dollars to Black Lives Matter and their message delivered at the White House earlier this month. Here's rapper RM.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KIM: Hi. We're BTS. And it is a great honor to be invited to the White House today to discuss the important issues of anti-Asian hate crimes, Asian inclusion and diversity.

KUHN: But not every K-Pop band is at liberty to speak out like that. That's because BTS is in a class by itself and because of the nature of the K-pop industry.

CEDARBOUGH SAEJI: The tradeoff that a lot of K-pop artists are making is that in exchange for a chance at becoming a household name or even worldwide fame, they give up a lot of control over their own life.

KUHN: CedarBough Saeji is a Korean studies professor at Pusan National University.

SAEJI: They may have a lot of things that they want to express. And depending on the management companies that they're working with, they aren't given as much freedom to express their own ideas as they would like.

KUHN: In their video, BTS assure their fans that they will return from their break better and stronger. Singer Jeon Jung-kook is 24 and the youngest member of BTS.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEON JUNG-KOOK: (Speaking Korean).

KUHN: "We're each going to take some time to have fun and experience lots of things," he says. "We promise we will return someday, even more mature than we are now."

Whether or not they get back together, they've already made their mark on South Korea's global image. They're confident that, as they sing in this new song, their best moment is yet to come. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Tokyo.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YET TO COME (THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MOMENT)")

BTS: (Singing) You and I best moment is yet to come.

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