SEOUL - Making megastars BTS do their South Korean military service is slowing the global growth of K-pop, the chairman of the septet’s agency Hybe said on Wednesday.
The boy band 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 Army.
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, 30, the oldest member of the group, enlisted in December.
Mr 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.
“The absence of BTS is the first reason,” Mr Bang said.
“I think it’s very clear that the fact BTS is not active as a team is playing the biggest role in bringing about this change in numbers,” he told a forum in Seoul.
BTS are the most prominent K-pop figures globally, he said, adding: “The market narrows significantly when BTS is taken out.”
His comments come days after Hybe suspended a controversial bid to acquire control of rival SM Entertainment, ending a lengthy, high-profile feud over the company’s management.
Mr Bang was accused of a hostile takeover and seeking to monopolise K-pop, but he defended the move as a solution to K-pop’s slowing growth.
Hybe announced in February 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, 29, 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 be...