Making megastars BTS do their military service is slowing the global growth of K-pop, according to the chairman of South Korea’s largest music label Hybe.
The boyband are widely considered South Korea’s biggest-ever cultural phenomenon, selling out stadiums around the world and dominating the charts while raking in billions for the country’s economy and building a global legion of fans known as Armys.
But all able-bodied men in South Korea must serve at least 18 months in the military and, after a years-long debate about whether BTS deserved an exemption, Jin, the oldest member of the group, enlisted in December.
Bang Si-hyuk, chairman of HYBE and the mastermind behind BTS, said figures, including global ratings and album sales, now showed declining demand for K-pop.
His comments came after HYBE suspended a controversial bid to acquire control of rival SM Entertainment, ending a lengthy, high-profile feud over the company’s management.
Last month, Hybe announced that a second BTS member, J-Hope, has “initiated the military enlistment process”, with local media reporting he was due to enlist in April.
On Sunday, J-Hope appeared on a late night music talk show on KBS and said goodbye to fans, telling them: “I will be back soon from the military.”
Since their debut in 2013, BTS have been credited with generating billions for their country, as well as boosting the image and soft power of South Korea, now a global cultural powerhouse.