The BTS Military Hiatus…nearly one month later


Madeline Khoo

AS BTS enlists in the military, K-Pop groups struggle to fill the gap they will leave while in service. Many fans await their arrival after their term in Korea.

Austin Pak

With the announcement of BTS’s anthology album “Proof” in June 2022, many fans felt a change was on the horizon. The group soon announced a hiatus from most group activities to focus on solo careers. In the months since Jung Ho-Seok (stage name J-Hope) released the album Jack in the Box and featured on Crush’s “Hope.” Jeon Jung-Kook (metonymously known as Jungkook) featured in Charlie Puth’s single “Left and Right.” 

HYBE Corporation announced on October 18th that the members of BTS would enlist in the military, with Jin being the first member after his solo debut in late October. His solo debut single, “The Astronaut,” was released on October 28th, with subsequent promotions running shortly after, briefly postponed because of the tragedy in Itaewon. 

Military hiatus is a topic on the mind of nearly every fan of the genre. Almost all Korean men must enlist for two years of mandatory military service before age 28, raised to 30 for entertainers by the “BTS Rule.” (The only exceptions are high-level athletes and esteemed classical musicians, who have to serve basic training rather than the mandatory 18-month service.) Previously, every major entertainment and idol group has dealt with this, with no exception for popularity. BIGBANG completed their military service in 2019, while SHINee’s Lee Tae-Min is currently serving. 

In their wake, BTS has left behind a stellar discography, becoming the defining act of the genre and buoying Big Hit’s ambitions to something far more lucrative. After going through many iterations, the final lineup of Bangtan Sonyeondan (translates to “Bulletproof Boy Scouts”) debuted in 2013 with the extended play “2 Kool for Skool” and the title track “No More Dream.” Initially a hip-hop-based group, their peak rose as they started to move towards pop music territory, starting with “DARK&WILD” (2014) and the title track “Danger.” With their continuation of releasing more music alongside the Hallyu wave, their population began to skyrocket with an extensive singles run, all the way to their most recent single, “Yet to Come,” released in June earlier this year. 

As BTS’s popularity grew exponentially, so did Big Hit’s assets. With their popularity, Big Hit launched the boy group TOMORROW X TOGETHER in 2019 to add to its then-current roster of BTS and soloist Lee Hyun. Following a renaming change into HYBE Corporation, their business growth has remained impressive, with the purchase of Source Music (home of GFriend, who disbanded under HYBE) and the founding of music labels Belift Lab and ADOR, under which they debuted the groups Le Sserafim, ENHYPEN, and NewJeans. Most impressive was the acquisition of a majority stake in Pledis Entertainment in early 2020, thus acquiring SEVENTEEN, fromis_9, and NU’EST (and the retention of members Hwang Min-Hyun and Kang Dong-Ho, known metonymously as Baekho, once their contracts expired in 2022). 

Regarding BTS’s success, Jenna Ismael (12) said, “BTS kind of set that foundation for HYBE. However, I do believe that because of like ENHYPEN, and like NewJeans, and all those like new fourth-generation groups they have I think they’ll be okay.”

Even despite an approximately 75,000 won drop in the Korean Stock Exchange from their initial announcement, HYBE individual stock prices have remained stable (and well over the “Big Three” companies of SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and YG Entertainment). (Their stock has not fallen much from the announcement due to Le Sserafim releasing their second extended play the day before.)

So what could come next?

“At least music-wise, SM (Entertainment) has been making an impact. I picked NCT because of the variety and the number of members they have,” Clay Dennis (12) said.

Neo-Culture Technology, abbreviated to NCT, are prime contenders to supplant BTS in years to come, at least financially. With 23 members divided into four different subgroups, U (primary group of all members), 127 (experimental hip-hop), Dream (brighter concepts), and WayV (primarily C-Pop), NCT has the potential to be an influential force within the genre (until members most likely deal with their military hiatus). 

There is a vacancy available for the headline male act of the genre. Many contenders appear to vie for the distinction, including Stray Kids, agency mates SEVENTEEN, TOMORROW X TOGETHER (commonly abbreviated to TXT), ENHYPEN, ATEEZ, and the previously mentioned NCT. But they also fight for the headline act for the genre as a whole, including established girl groups BLACKPINK, TWICE, and ITZY. Their temporary hiatus only adds to general questions about their future, including its inevitable (and occurring) westernization and the status of third-generation groups domestically. 

Still, James Lam (10) voiced his feelings about their legacy.

“I think they have a special place in terms of international success, so I don’t think there will ever be a group that will have much because of BTS.”

The awe-inspiring growth of BTS has established the stamp of K-pop on the world. Their impact will not be forgotten as the world waits for their comeback in 2025.