Fans of BTS were shocked when the K-pop group announced they would be taking a “hiatus” to focus on solo projects in a video that has since gone viral.
The news came just days after they released their three-album anthropology series Proof.
It sparked confusion among adoring followers, known as Army, and pandemonium from financial backers, who saw 28 per cent wiped off the record label's stock price, after the video announcement was published.
The video showed the band's seven members sitting down during their Festa Dinner, an annual fan celebration event, on Tuesday.
However, the entertainment company behind them has insisted the video had been mistranslated.
What did BTS say?
During the one-hour pre-recorded video, members RM, J-Hope, Jin, Suga, Jimin, V and Jungkook reminisced about their time together.
During the dinner, they discussed South Korea’s "idol system", where pop groups are characterised by the highly manufactured star system, and how it made it difficult for individual artists to mature and branch out on their own.
“We have to accept that we’ve changed,” RM says as his bandmates looked on with more serious expressions. “For me, it was like the group BTS was within my grasp until On and Dynamite, but after Butter and Permission to Dance, I didn’t know what kind of group we were anymore.”
At one point, as the band begins discussing their future, Suga speaks and this is where things get tricky.
"We're going into a hiatus now. Should we talk about why we're not doing the Festa or making content?" he asks in Korean, which has been subtitled into English.
It is the word “hiatus” that, according to the band's label, has been unintentionally used in the subtitles provided by YouTube.
Scroll the gallery below to see images from BTS Permission to Dance on Stage concert in Las Vegas.
Are BTS going on a hiatus?
Hybe, the band's record label, has since told Associated Press that “BTS are not taking a hiatus. Members will be focusing more on solo projects at this time," hinting that the mistranslation has caused major confusion.
So what did the band actually say? According to Ewha Kim of the Korean Cultural Centre in Abu Dhabi, in literal translation, the words mean: “Yes, we are into off time” or “we will have off time”.
However, the word “hiatus” is the one that’s mostly been used to report about the band’s temporary break, with fans worried that this might mean the group will break up.
Since news of the impended "off time", Hybe’s stock has plummeted, with shares falling 28 per cent, reportedly losing $1.7 billion of market value in the first hour of trading on Wednesday.
Perhaps in reaction to the drop in shares, Hybe has since responded by saying that BTS want time to improve as individuals but will continue with group and solo activities, with a stronger focus on individual projects.
The band will continue Run BTS, their Korean variety show, and still have plans to appear and perform on music programmes such as Mnet Countdown and SBS Inkigayo.
Why are they taking a break?
It’s thought that the group’s announcement may be tied to the mandatory South Korean military service as some of the oldest members are nearing the deadline to complete it. Jin's 30th birthday is in December, while Suga turned 29 in March.
In 2020, an amendment was made to change the age limit that men have to complete the service from 28 to 30, however it still did not absolve the boy band from needing to complete it.
Over the last few years, there’s been mounting pressure to exempt the group members from having to complete conscription.
“It’s time to create a system for incorporating popular culture-art figures as art personnel,” said Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Hwang Hee in May, as reported by the Yonhap news agency.
Hwang said he aimed to push a new law through parliament allowing stars to serve their country outside the military.
“The [exemption] system has been operated meaningfully to give those who have enhanced the national status based on their excellent skills more chances to contribute to the country, and there is no reason the popular art-culture field should be excluded from this,” he said.
“Somebody should be a responsible voice at a time when there are conflicting pros and cons ahead of the enlistment of some of the BTS members.”
Currently exemptions and reduced terms of service are offered to top classical musicians, folk music acts and Olympic medal winners.
It is not the first time that the group has taken time off for themselves.
In 2019, BTS announced an "extended break" from music, where members would be undergoing a period of “rest and relaxation" that would "provide them with a chance to enjoy the ordinary lives of young people in their 20s, albeit briefly". It lasted around one month.
After their Permission to Dance On Stage concerts in Los Angeles last year, the members took time off to rest and get "re-inspired".
Scroll through the gallery below to see BTS at the White House.