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South Korean defense minister calls BTS fulfilling military service ‘desirable’

  • South Korean defense minister Lee Jong-sup said it is “desirable that members of BTS carry out their mandatory military service” during the National Defense Committee’s interpellation session on Tuesday.

  • Lee was asked to give his opinion on a proposal from lawmaker Kim Young-bae of the Democratic Party of Korea, which would revise the current provisions and expand the list of exceptions for military service to include pop artists who have made significant cultural contributions.

  • Currently, all able-bodied Korean men must enlist for two years of military service before age 30, but exceptions are made for award-winning athletes and notable classical musicians.

  • BTS member Jin is first up to enlist as he will turn 30 in December.

South Korean defense minister Lee Jong-sup is in favor of BTS completing their upcoming mandatory military service.

On Oct. 4, during the National Defense Committee’s interpellation session, Lee was asked for his thoughts regarding the proposal last month from lawmaker Kim Young-bae of the Democratic Party of Korea. The proposed bill would have allowed an alternative exemption to be made for pop artists who have made significant cultural impact. 

Lee said it is “desirable that members of BTS carry out their mandatory military service,” but if it came down to it, he would “respect the revised law if it does pass in Congress,” according to NME.

Currently, the Military Service Act allows figures such as Olympic athletes and classical musicians who have received either the Order of Cultural Merits distinction or medals in sports or culture to be exempt from mandatory military service. The proposal from Kim would revise and expand the definition of “Art and Sports Personnel” to include pop artists who have received the Order of Cultural Merits, which BTS did in 2018. They would serve a 34-month alternative service instead of two years in the military. 

As of now, all able-bodied Korean men must enlist for two years of military service by the time they turn 28; however, the members of BTS were allowed to defer their service by two years due to a revision to the Military Service Act dubbed the “BTS law.” BTS member Jin is first up to enlist as he will turn 30 in December.

Lee’s thoughts on Kim’s proposed revision bill is the latest in this hotly debated issue. In August, Lee suggested that even if BTS served in the military, they could still perform overseas. 

A September poll indicated that a majority of South Koreans thought BTS should serve. Conversely, back in April, a private survey of 1,004 South Koreans conducted by Gallup Korea found that 59 percent thought that BTS and other top K-pop artists should be exempt from mandatory military service.

Other government officials have expressed their thoughts on the matter over the past several months. Also in April, South Korean Ambassador to Britain Gunn Kim claimed that it is “very much expected” that BTS will enlist.

One month later, South Korea’s Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Hwang Hee said BTS should be allowed an alternative as “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.”

BTS is currently preparing for their divisive free concert in Busan as part of the city’s bid efforts to host the 2030 World Expo. The mayor of Busan has also floated an alternative for the K-pop act to serve as PR ambassadors for the expo instead of conscripting.   

 

Feature Image via: Vanity Fair

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