BTS might get to perform during military service, South Korean defense minister says

  • South Korean Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-sup shared during a parliamentary session on Monday that even if the members of K-pop boy group BTS join the army, “there would be a way to give them a chance to practice and perform together if there are scheduled concerts abroad.” 
  • Under the Military Service Act, all able-bodied South Korean men must perform two years of military service before the age of 30.
  • BTS’ oldest member Jin would be the first to enlist as he turns 30 in December.

South Korean Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-sup said there may be a way for the members of K-pop boy group BTS to continue performing even while they serve in the military.

During a parliamentary session on Monday, Lee said, “The BTS members should come to the military, and I believe there will be a way for us to give them the opportunity to practice as well as allow them to leave the country and perform anytime if they have overseas concerts scheduled.”

“The Ministry of National Defense has reviewed the issue of BTS’ enlistment in consideration of maintaining fairness, equity, and military service resources, and they could be able to continue performing for national interests,” he continued. “As many people highly value artists serving in the military, that may help boost their popularity even more.” 

Currently, South Korea’s conscription law states that all able-bodied South Korean men must perform two years of military service before the age of 30. In December 2020, the country passed a law to give BTS and other world-renowned K-pop artists the chance to delay military service, a change that some have dubbed the “BTS law.” Jin, the oldest member of the group, would be the first to serve as he turns 30 in December. 

Mandatory military service in South Korea has been widely debated by many government officials. In April, South Korean Ambassador to Britain Gunn Kim said that since BTS “are role models for many young-generation Koreans,” they are all expected to eventually enlist. Others such as South Korea’s Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Hwang Hee have said that BTS should be given a special exemption. “Forcing globally recognized pop culture artists to halt their careers at their peak in order to serve in the military would cause a great loss not only to the country but also to the entire world,” Hee said in May. 

During the parliamentary meeting, Director Lee Ki-shik of the Military Manpower Association reportedly said that creating additional exemptions on top of the military’s current stipulations could “break the overall framework of military service exemption.” 

As of now, the South Korean parliament is discussing a bill that would allow pop culture figures such as BTS to pursue an “alternative” form of service by serving as arts and cultural personnel. South Korea currently allows notable figures such as Olympic athletes and classical musicians to be exempted from mandatory military service.   

BTS is currently on a temporary hiatus to focus on solo projects after releasing their well-received anthology album “Proof” back in June. Since then, members such as Jungkook and J-Hope have released new music, one being a collaboration with Charlie Puth and the other being a solo album. J-Hope also made history this past weekend as the first South Korean artist to headline Lollapalooza. Most recently, it was announced that BTS’ web series “Run BTS” will return for a special episode on Aug. 16.

Featured Image via Hybe Labels

 

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