Popular male idol group SMAP will disband at the end of this year after some members chose to call it quits, its management agency said early on Aug. 14.

After the group fell into crisis in January when news of a possible breakup made headlines, SMAP's five members continued discussions about the group's future. Some members said that it would be difficult to maintain joint activities given their current situation, according to Johnny & Associates.

Earlier this month, the agency proposed that SMAP’s activities be temporarily suspended.

However, it eventually decided to dissolve the group after some members said that they wanted to put an end to the group altogether.

“(The decision for disbandment) was a painful choice. But we respected the achievements of the five members who continued to do their utmost,” the agency said in a statement.

The five members are Masahiro Nakai, 43, Takuya Kimura, 43, Goro Inagaki, 42, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, 42, and Shingo Katori, 39.

After the breakup, they will remain with Johnny & Associates for the time being and continue to work individually, the agency added.

The five members all released statements about the group's dissolution through the agency.

“We created troubles," Nakai said in his statement. "We caused concerns. We have been taken care of by you. Please forgive us for reaching this result (disbandment).”

Kimura said, “Honestly speaking, I am really sad concerning this ‘group disbandment.’ But I cannot help but accept it. We have come to a really unfortunate conclusion by ignoring our fans and staff members who have supported us.”

In January, the members split on whether they would become independent from Johnny & Associates.

While Nakai, Inagaki, Kusanagi and Katori wanted to break free, Kimura insisted that he would remain with the agency, sources said.

The controversy over a possible breakup deepened after a manager who had been in charge of the group for many years resigned as a director of a company that was then affiliated with Johnny & Associates.

Johnny & Associates made proposals such as SMAP holding concerts and appearing in TV programs as this year marks the 25th anniversary of the group’s CD debut. However, those possibilities were not realized.

SMAP, which is the abbreviation of Sports Music Assemble People, was formed in 1988 and made its CD debut in 1991.

“Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” (The one and only flower in the world), a song released in 2003, sold more than 2.5 million copies.

Other hit songs include “Ganbarimasho” (Let’s hang in), “Yozora no Muko” (Beyond the night sky) and “Lion Heart.”

The five members each have been active in appearing in TV variety programs, dramas and commercials.

In the popular variety show “SMAP X SMAP,” aired by Fuji Television Network Inc. and its affiliated broadcasters since 1996, all the members have displayed their distinctive personalities through comedy skits, cooking techniques and other means.