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Japanese boy band SMAP disappoints fans by announcing break-up

The five-man group, which formed in 1988 when its members were in their teens, will split on 31 Dec.

This file picture taken on December 30, 2015 shows members of the Japanese boy band SMAP (L to R) Masahiro Nakai, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Shingo Katori, Goro Inagaki and Takuya Kimura in Tokyo. Hugely popular Japanese boy band SMAP will break up at the end of the year, their management said on August 14, 2016, saddening their army of fans across Asia and marking the end of an era. Picture: AFP.

TOKYO - Japanese boy band SMAP will break up at the end of the year, its promoter said on Sunday, disappointing legions of fans in Japan and Asia just seven months after its members pledged to stay together.

The five-man group, which formed in 1988 when its members were in their teens, will split on 31 December, Johnny & Associates said in a statement, adding that all members would continue solo careers.

"We apologise for the trouble we have caused. Please forgive us for having led to a result like this. We are so sorry," group leader Masahiro Nakai said, the Kyodo news agency reported.

The break-up attracted wide media coverage on Sunday, and distraught fans took to Twitter to express their sadness at the group's demise.

SMAP, whose name stands for "Sports Music Assemble People" had averted a break-up in January, leading to a collective sigh of relief, even from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In its heyday the group packed venues around Asia and sang for Chinese leaders. Its 2003 single The Only Flower in the World sold over two million copies.