1st Gen K-Pop Idol And Industry “Sunbae” Tony An Discusses The Difficulties That BTS Might Face As Global Stars

As the industry’s respected senior idol, H.O.T.’s Tony An is no stranger to these struggles.

In a recent interview with the Korean news outlet DongA, first generation K-Pop idol group H.O.T.‘s Tony An sat down and shared his thoughts on BTS‘s success and the difficulties that comes with the global superstardom.

H.O.T.’s Tony An | @dongamedia/Twitter

As one the industry’s respected sunbae (senior) idols to have built the foundations of K-Pop in its earliest days, Tony An is no stranger to the struggles that idols face. He claimed “while there is no way for [him] to really fathom,” he is certain that the exhaustion must be unimaginable for BTS.

BTS | @bbcr1/Twitter

There’s no way for me to really fathom… BTS members have accomplished so much more than I ever have. They’re ten times, hundred times more successful than I’ve been. But I can say for sure… that it must not be easy for them. The exhaustion must be unimaginable for BTS.

— Tony An

Tony An pointed out that the physical exhaustion is only one part of the overall exhaustion that affect BTS (as well as other idols). Especially now that K-Pop has expanded to an international scale, idols have to work without borders — which, eventually, takes a hefty toll on their conditions.

There is the physical exhaustion. BTS’s schedule is probably packed. They may not be traveling a lot right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but generally speaking… Working without borders, all over the world, can take a toll on their physical conditions.

— Tony An

In addition, there’s mental exhaustion — which Tony An himself also suffered when he used to promote more actively. While for him the loneliness has been somewhat manageable, he guessed otherwise for BTS members who are now too recognizable anywhere and everywhere.

Tony An in 1996, promoting “Candy” 

Yes, it’s such an honor to be loved and celebrated… but that comes with a great deal of loneliness. If you think about it, where would they be able to go? For me, the loneliness felt more manageable because I’m not too recognized outside Asia and I could get away. But for BTS, they probably don’t even have that much freedom. And without freedom… It’s tough. Humans need freedom.

— Tony An

Along with chronic loneliness, Tony An cited that “the pressure to keep going” is another huge factor — and compared the weight which BTS must be carrying to be equivalent to what the national athletes feel at the Olympics.


[For idols], there is this constant pressure to keep going, keep moving forward. They have to maintain everything they have accomplished. There is so much to hold on to. What [BTS] must feel? That pressure to outdo themselves? I can’t even wrap my head around that… And I’d imagine only the best of the best could relate to that kind of pressure. Gold medalists or world champions.

— Tony An

After praising BTS for “paving the way” for K-Pop idols to aim for greater things in the global market, Tony An advised the members to find satisfaction in every moment they could — to stay happy despite these difficulties.

| @bangtan.official/Facebook

The love and support we get from the fans, it’s unconditional. Fans don’t want anything in return. It’s love in the purest form. It’s true love… I realized that at one point and asked myself, ‘How is this even possible?’ What have I done to deserve this kind of unconditional, never-ending love from these people?

Back when I used to be an active idol, I thought everything I accomplished came from my hard work. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I know better now, I would never think that I’m the one who got me here. As long as my hoobae idols can also understand that — that while the fans’ love is unconditional, it should never be taken for granted — they will find satisfaction in the work they do. Idols do what they do for that love and it’s easy to get captivated by the need for more and more. But find satisfaction in every moment and they could stay happy [despite the difficulties].

— Tony An

Tony An’s wise words from the past decades of experience in the industry and the love for his hoobae idols have since deeply resonated with ARMYs.

| theqoo
  • “As far as I know, Tony An reached absolute peak as a first generation idol… but he also hit rock bottom with depression. He’s coming from experience and I couldn’t wish for a better sunbae for BTS. Thank you for the wise words.”
  • “I always thought it’s nice when Korean celebrities went overseas and got to spend some time free from the spotlight. But I’m realizing that’s not possible for BTS… That must be really tough.”
  • “From what I remember, Tony An was extremely nice to the members on Please Take Care of My Refrigerator too. I’m glad that BTS as hoobaes have someone like him speaking about the difficulties. I know nothing about idol life and I can tell it’s difficult AF. But this guy has been there, through it all. He probably knows better than anyone else what the BTS members are going through. Such wise words.”
  • “What a good man he seems to be…”
  • “I’m an ARMY and this interview is making me cry for some reason.”
Source: DongA, THEQOO and Image (1) and (2)


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