K-pop pioneers BTS’ timeout leaves fans in tears and investors furious

SEOUL, June 15 (Reuters) – K-pop pioneers BTS faced tears and sympathy from fans but anger from shareholders of their management company on Wednesday, a day after the group, pleading the exhaustion, announced a break from the band’s musical activities to pursue solo projects.

Many in South Korea reacted with shock and dismay to Tuesday’s news which, with some of its seven members approaching military service age, also sparked speculation about the future of a group whose optimistic and youth empowerment messages have made them global stars.

“I could relate to them as they shed tears and told us honestly how they felt,” fan Nini Lee told Reuters from a cafe in Seoul where she had gathered with other fans. .

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“Their voice gave me tremendous strength when I had hard times, and I am no longer afraid of such headwinds… Now I want to give them my voice of courage.”.

Kim Young-sun, who runs the cafe, said she was sorry that as a fan she only wanted more from BTS at a time when they were struggling, wishing them a well-deserved break to recharge their batteries. batteries.

BTS leader and rapper RM, in a tearful video released Tuesday on the ninth anniversary of a group that last year became the first Asian group to win Artist of the Year at the American Music Awards, said said he had “felt guilty and was afraid” to ask for the rest he desperately needed.

Singer Jimin said they struggled to find their identity in what he called an “exhausting process”, while RM also lamented that the K-pop industry couldn’t give young artists “time to mature”.

On social media, other fans blamed BTS’ management group HYBE for relentlessly pushing for new albums and other money-making opportunities. Read more

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The K-pop and idol industry has long operated on a profit-making system where stars cannot rest even when they burn out,” said South Korean cultural critic Jung Duk-hyun. .

SHAREHOLDER ‘DYNAMITE’

Tuesday’s unexpected announcement fueled anger among investors in HYBE, which went public two years ago and whose shares (352820.KS) plunged 25% on Wednesday, wiping out nearly 2 trillion won (1 .55 billion) of its market value.

“They have planted ‘dynamite’ in the hearts of shareholders,” one wrote on a Samsung Securities stock trading platform, referring to one of the band’s hit songs.

HYBE shares had performed relatively poorly in recent months, and the company’s general manager and some BTS members unloaded shares totaling 10 billion won ($7.75 million) in December.

All able-bodied South Korean males are subject to around two years of military service, and BTS’s oldest member Jin is due to start his service next year.

A bill pushing to grant military exemptions to world-famous entertainers is pending in parliament, amid a protracted debate over whether BTS deserves similar benefits enjoyed by sports athletes.

Lee Ki-hoon, an analyst at Hana Financial Investment Co. Ltd., wrote in a report that BTS’s lack of public activity, including the impact of military service, could result in a 750 billion won revenue loss. in 2023.

($1 = 1,290.1600 won)

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Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Yeni Seo and Minwoo Park; Additional reporting by Joori Roh; edited by John Stonestreet

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