South Korea is debating shortening mandatory military service for K-pop stars such as BTS from about two years to three weeks.
- The eldest member of BTS is approaching 30, the age K-Pop stars tend to postpone their military service to
- In South Korea, all able-bodied men aged between 18 and 28 must serve in the military
- In June, BTS announced a break to allow its members to pursue solo projects
The issue is coming sharply into focus due to the oldest member of the band, Jin, turning 30 next year.
Under a 2019 revision of the law, globally recognized K-pop stars were allowed to put off their service until they were 30.
Military service is hugely controversial in South Korea where all able-bodied men aged between 18 and 28 must fulfill their duties as part of efforts to defend their country against nuclear-armed North Korea.
Over the years, some exemptions have become available to people such as Olympics and Asian Games medal winners, classical musicians and dancers who win top prizes at certain competitions, allowing them to either put off service or do it for a shorter time.
Parliament is now debating a bill that would shorten military service for K-pop stars.
Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup, speaking at a parliamentary session, said that by allowing BTS to continue performing, the military could serve national interests without affecting the already shrinking pool of personnel resources due to low birth rates.
BTS’s management, Big Hit, did not respond to a request for comment.
“Even if they join the military, there would be a way to give them a chance to practice and perform together if there are scheduled concerts abroad,” Mr Lee said.
“As many people highly value [artists serving] in the military, that may help increase their popularity even more.”
The seven-member band announced in June a break from group musical activities to pursue solo projects, saying they were exhausted.
In April, a Big Hit official said some members were having a “hard time” because of uncertainties over the debate in parliament, calling for a decision.
Since their 2013 debut, BTS have become a worldwide sensation with their upbeat hits and social campaigns aimed at empowering youth.
BTS became the first Asian band to win artist of the year at the American Music Awards last year, and they met US President Joe Biden at the White House in May to discuss hate crimes targeting Asians.
A South Korean think tank estimated in 2018 that BTS would bring an economic benefit totaling 56 trillion won ($61 billion) between 2014 and 2023.