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SEOUL (Reuters) - Popular South Korean boy band Bigbang is back on the music scene after a three-year hiatus, with a new single delving into the stresses of daily life.
The track, entitled "Loser", has dominated South Korea's online music charts since its release on May 1 and its video has seen more than 12 million hits on YouTube. It has also ranked top on the iTunes single charts of Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Taiwan, where the band has many fans.
The quintet had taken time off while band members focused on their solo careers. They hope to release a single a month until August, culminating in a new album in September.
"Society is very competitive. I think the word 'loser' can explain many problems from competition and many people are struggling to survive," band member Taeyang said in an interview on Wednesday. "It is comforting that we are singing on their behalf and that is why people love this song."
While Korean pop, known as "K-pop," projects a wholesome image to its fans, it has also been criticized by some of the public for its cut-throat competition and the way it treats young talent, such as excessively long hours and low pay until they make it big.
"Many training places churn out the same people," Taeyang said. "I believe music must show the identities that each of us has."
The "Korean Wave" of music has swamped Asia, winning fans from Tokyo to Singapore and beyond but it has had little impact in Europe and the United States with the exception of Psy's "Gangnam Style" hit in 2012.
Bigbang, which lead singer G-Dragon hopes can reap success further west, are known for being heavily involved in their music production as opposed to other K-pop groups which focus on their slick dance routines.
The band is managed by YG Entertainment Inc, one of South Korea's three main K-pop talent agencies, with acts including Psy and a market value of $637 million. YG said last year the private equity arm of French luxury goods giant LVMH would invest up to $80 million in the firm.
Reporting by Ju-min Park and Minwoo Park; Editing by Alison Williams