Chairman Bang Si Hyuk of HYBE, who is called the ‘father of BTS’ spoke at the Kwanhun Forum held at the Seoul Press Center on March 15th.
He said, “K-pop is in crisis. The slowdown in indicators is clear. The first reason is the absence of BTS.”
Regarding BTS’ activities after military service, which draws attention, Chairman Bang took a cautious stance, saying, “Just because we hope to resume in 2025, I hope we don’t keep a fixed target that year.”
He also expressed his aspirations of a presence in the US market through additional acquisitions, saying, “I am looking at a top-tier label in the Latin market” for HYBE’s future.
The following is a Q&A with Chairman Bang.
Q. You said that K-pop is in crisis, and I want to hear your honest opinion about it.
A. Regarding the K-pop crisis, the slowdown in indicators is clear. There is no way the numbers can lie. Among the indicators, there are only two things that are rising: China is increasing consumption by breaking new routes through the power of consumers even during the Han-Korean Restriction, and per capita consumption is increasing.
The first (crisis) reason we think is the absence of BTS. The dripping effect caused by the IP of BTS is very different from what we know in Korea. If you look at penetration or awareness, BTS has a much broader reach than K-pop, and it is also true that the market narrows if BTS is excluded. However, if you ask if BTS will return (the growth rate) even tomorrow, I don’t see it that way. Since the trend (slow growth) has already begun, we have to find a way regardless of whether BTS exists or not.
Q. What do you think is the identity of K-pop?
A. Actually, I think it is difficult to say that K-pop is a genre. Pop is a mix of various types of music that people of that era like, but it is not defined musically as a genre. As such, the musical genre of K-pop is just pop. I think the reality of K-pop should be viewed as a culture, encompassing everything from fans’ consumption behavior to production/industry system, and contract structure. I’m the one who thinks the word ‘K’ should be diluted.
We have to collaborate with more foreign genres and labels, and furthermore, go to the point where it is completely composed of foreign members and it is not said that it came from a K-pop company. Expansion to the point where K is defined as a specific system, not Korea, is much more helpful in resolving the crisis we are talking about. My basic idea is that the way K’s identity is maintained does not help at all in resolving the crisis of slowing growth.
Q. HYBE expressed hope for the resumption of BTS activities in 2025.
A. It’s not we will resume in 2025, but we and the members hope that we can resume around 2025. Therefore, please do not think of this as a target year. BTS and we will do our best, though. I would like to tell you that the problem of being in the military is not always resolved according to one’s will so it cannot be operated in any “promised year” because preparations for the return are needed even after returning. However, it is agreed by both parties that this is not floating hope, but we will actively try.
Q. Apart from Jin, who has already enlisted, and J-Hope, who is about to enlist, have the enlistment dates been adjusted for the rest of the members?
A. The timing of enlistment is actually closer to personal information, so it is difficult to say here. However, as I have said many times in the past, once the timing of enlistment is decided, we will disclose it sequentially and transparently.
Q. BTS has been concluded to be enlisted, but what do you think of the issue of military service exemption for the pop culture and artists?
A. I cannot say that there is no loss in terms of individual careers and national assets. I think it is true that the continuity of careers and the value of national assets are cut off or fall. However, it is a completely different matter for an individual to happily accept the duty of the military as a citizen of a country. The country made this decision, and about it, the artists continued to say, “We will go when we are called” for almost 3 years. “I am very happy to be going to the army now”.