In a press briefing on Wednesday, South Korea’s Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Hwang Hee said BTS should be allowed to substitute the country’s mandatory two-year conscription for alternative contributions given their status as global personnel.
BTS members’ possible military enlistment has been a controversial issue since the group rose to global stardom. At present, the Military Service Act requires all able-bodied Korean men to enlist for two years of military service before age 30.
An amendment dubbed the “BTS law” was made in late 2020 to raise the age limit from the previous 28. The law allowed K-pop entertainers to apply for deferment if they have received government medals for cultural impact and contributions.
All seven members of BTS received the Order of Cultural Merit award in 2018. Member Jin is slated to begin his military service upon turning 30 in December.
Currently, the Culture Ministry only grants exemptions for international award-winning athletes such as Olympians or notable classical musicians. Those who qualify can do alternative services in their role in promoting the country abroad.
“It’s time to create a system for incorporating popular culture-art figures as art personnel,” Hwang said. “The exemption system has been operated meaningfully to give those who have enhanced the national status based on their excellent skills more chances to contribute to the country, and there is no reason the popular art-culture field should be excluded from this.”
The official went on to refer to BTS in his proposal. He urged the parliament to approve such a bill as quickly as possible.
“Somebody should be a responsible voice at a time when there are conflicting pros and cons ahead of the enlistment of some of the BTS members. 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.”
A recent Gallup Korea poll surveyed 1,004 Koreans aged 18 and above on K-Pop artists being granted alternative services and exemption to military service. Some 59% favored such an option, 33% opposed and 8% declined to answer.
In the meantime, BTS fans can look forward to the group’s new album “Proof,” an anthology comprising three discs and three new songs coming on June 10.
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