Process of the Growth and Popularity of BTS
BTS, who made their debut on June 13, 2013 and swept all the rookie awards at home and abroad, has grown into one of Korea's leading music groups. They have created a global BTS boom and are called 21st century pop icons. They have topped the world's leading music charts such as iTunes, Spotify, and Apple Music as well as the U.S. Billboard, the British Official Chart, and Japan Oricon, and have set unique records on platforms such as YouTube.
In particular, BTS is the first group to simultaneously conquer the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200 charts in a week. They were even the first Korean group to perform alone at the 63rd Grammy Awards, setting records for performing at the top three music awards in the U.S. including the Billboard Music Awards, the American Music Awards, and the Grammy Awards. Not only did they accomplish these musical achievements, they also have a good influence on society, spreading positivity around the world through UN speeches and ‘Love Myself’ campaigns.
They are a successful case of the phenomenon commonly referred to as the 'Miracle of Small Agency.' Although they are not an idol group designed with the purpose of going abroad, they have been producing the biggest output of K-pop in records related to overseas popularity.
According to an article from GUKJENEWS (Korean online news agency) on May 28. 2018, BTS became the first Koreans to be ranked No.1 in the world in a pop culture category since the founding of the country. In 2019, praise towards BTS began to pour out from the west, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
In October 2019, Forbes published an article reporting the economic effect of BTS, which generates 5.5 trillion won in GDP. It was also found that the economic effect of topping the Billboard Hot 100 with "Dynamite" was at least 1.7 trillion won, and many media outlets described BTS as a ‘walking conglomerate.’
According to a report by the Hyundai Economic Research Institute, as of 2021, BTS has brought economic benefits of 5 billion dollars (about 5.7 trillion won) to Korea every year, and the American radio network NPR said BTS is also having the ripple effect on teaching and sharing Korean culture with the world.
In 2020, they were selected as the ‘celebrity of the year’ in the U.S. weekly magazine Time for leading the way in breaking K-pop records in Korea and abroad, and it is expected that after a generation, they will rise to the ranks of other classic music acts like The Beatles and become an icon of hope in life. In 2021, they topped the Japanese Oricon Chart's total sales rankings, the first time in 37 years since Michael Jackson's “Thriller,” as a Korean singer or group. The International Recording Industry Association released a global music report titled, ‘The No. 1 sales in the global music market is BTS.’
Birth of ARMY, and BTS’s Rationales for the Activity Suspension
While BTS has been active in various fields, there have always been supporters who cheer and encourage them. They are BTS's fandom, ARMY, which stands for Adorable Representative M.C for Youth. And on December 9, 2013, the first recruitment was announced through the official fan cafe, and on March 29, 2014, the official fan club was formed by holding a ceremony. BTS was writing a new history as a Korean idol group with ARMY.
However, on June 14, 2022, ARMY around the world was surprised: BTS declared a suspension of group activities. A video which was filmed with the concept of BTS having a drink with the members well explains the reason of suspension. The members openly confessed their worries over the past nine years, enjoying various drinks and foods. The BTS leader, RM said, "I feel like my team was on my hands until ‘Dynamite’ but I don't know what kind of team we are from ‘Butter’ and ‘Permission To Dance.’”
He added that what we talk about and what messages we send are not only very important to us but also a meaning of our living. However, from one day I began to feel that such things are disappearing. The members stated that being unable to reflect on ‘individual growth’ due to being buried in team activities was the main reason for the temporary suspension of group activities. RM said, "The K-pop idol system itself does not allow people to mature," adding, "I don't have time to grow up because I have to keep filming and doing something." RM also stated, "As a human being, I've changed a lot from 10 years ago,” and, "I think we should function in some way in the world at a time when we are in the forefront, but I didn't give myself a chance to think about it.” BTS said they will officially carry out solo music activities that have been conducted only with ‘mixtape’ (non-regular albums) due to changes in their future activities. The first batter is expected to be J-Hope, who said, "I think we need to talk about BTS's change of tone regarding my personal album, which is an important part of BTS’s chapter two." Jin said, "I wanted to be an actor," adding, "As I experienced more things as an idol, I don't think I have any lingering feelings for Idol`s role."
BTS released the album “Proof,” which organizes Chapter 1, and has sold more than 2 million copies. ‘Organizing Chapter 1’ means that it would put a comma in the team's activities for a while. RM said, "I'm so sorry that I couldn't show you the performance that people want this time," but added, "I'll show you properly when we get together later." Although it is not a breakup of the group, it is expected to have a big impact on the world's music industry and pop culture beyond K-pop. BTS said in a YouTube video posted late on the afternoon of July 14, "Even if we pause, relax, and rest, we are moving forward for more time to relax in the future."
At the same time as BTS's suspension of group activities, the individual activities of the members began. The music video for “Arson” was posted by member J-Hope on July 14. BTS's suspension of group activities seems to have affected not only the members' desire for individual activities but also issues related to military enlistment. Hwang Hee, former Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said, "BTS is showing a cultural ripple effect that resonates the world by generating 1.2 trillion won in production per concert and winning leading overseas music awards. Whatever the reason, the suspension of BTS's group activities is expected to have a great impact on the raging Korean Wave.”
Regarding the suspension of activities, there must be reasons for not being revealed through video or interviews with the media. Whether the reason is for individual activities or military service, we cannot help but praise them for not only their role as singers but also as diplomats who promoted Korea and spread Korean wave overseas. Therefore, wherever they are and whatever they do, all we can do is support and encourage them until the day when they come back together as a united group and show their capacity to their heart’s content.