K-pop sensation BTS shocked fans on Tuesday with the announcement that the group will go on hiatus while its seven members take time to explore solo projects.

Since forming in 2010, BTS has become one of the world’s most successful and celebrated music acts, but the group’s meteoric rise has not been easy on its members. In a pre-taped special that was released as part of FESTA—an annual celebration tied to the anniversary of the group’s debut—Jin, Jimin, RM, J-Hope, Suga, V, and Jungkook opened up about the challenges they have faced as they try to create authentic music while pleasing fans.

“Whenever I write lyrics and songs, it’s really important what kind of story and message I want to give out, but it was like that was gone now. I don’t know what kind of story I should tell now,” RM shared. He went on to decry the relentless pressure of K-pop’s “whole idol system,” saying it gives artists no “time to mature… there’s no time left for growth.” He said “the group has definitely changed,” and he “didn’t know what kind of group we were anymore,” adding, “Right now, we’ve lost our direction, and I just want to take some time to think.”

Suga echoed RM’s sentiment, saying, “The hardest thing is writing lyrics…I have to talk about something that I really feel, but right now, I’m just squeezing it out because we have to satisfy people’s wants and the listeners. It’s so painful, but that’s just how this job goes.”

Jimin likewise described how the group has struggled as they have tried to “find our identity, and that’s an exhausting and long process.”

A spokesperson for BTS later told Rolling Stone, “To be clear, they are not on hiatus but will take time to explore some solo projects at this time and remain active in various different formats.”

The announcement comes just days after BTS released Proof, a three-CD collection featuring music from throughout the band’s catalog, plus three new tracks and some unreleased demos. The group also recorded a corresponding Proof Live concert video, which streamed to millions of viewers on Monday and featured a guest appearance from Anderson .Paak. BTS also recently performed at the Grammys and visited the White House.

As the group takes a break, the members will each focus on individual projects. J-Hope is slotted to headline Lollapalooza this summer as a solo act, setting him up to become the first South Korean solo artist to headline the main stage at a major U.S. music festival. Jimin, Suga, and Jungkook also have solo projects in the works.

Despite this bombshell announcement, BTS insisted they are not breaking up and will one day get back together. “We’re each going to take some time to have fun and experience lots of things,” Jungkook stated. “We promise we will return someday even more mature than we are now.”

BTS – FESTA 2022