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South Korean politician suggests BTS members should be offered “special alternative” to mandatory military service

By | Published on Wednesday 7 October 2020


BTS are on a seemingly unstoppable rise at the moment, with their popularity at home in South Korea and internationally still on the up. However, fans are increasingly concerned that the group’s booming career may soon be scuppered by South Korea’s mandatory military service. There might now be a way out though, as a government official has said that they may be granted an exemption.

In South Korea, all able-bodied men between the ages of eighteen and 28 are required to serve two years in the military. There are few exceptions, and being a K-pop star is not generally one of them. Currently, this issue is most pressing for the band’s oldest member Jin, who turns 28 in December.

This is, of course, an issue that has been faced by many other K-pop groups before. And other groups being forced into hiatus while members do their military service arguably created a gap in the market that BTS were able to exploit for their own success.

Other acts have tried to keep things ticking while certain members are doing that military service by having their bandmates embark on solo careers in the gap. But this does not guarantee that the group will simply be able to pick up where they left off when everyone eventually returns – fans having often moved on by then.

In recent months, BTS fans – slightly ironically known as “the Army” – have sent various petitions to the South Korean government calling for a special plan for the group. As Wired reports, one current proposal seems to aim to keep the K-pop outfit in the public consciousness by drawing them into an international territory dispute.

But, of course, the simplest approach is to simply grant the seven members of the group an exemption. However, the South Korean government previously said that would not be an option. Except, with the band’s popularity showing no signs of being on the wane, and the estimated $4.65 billion they deliver to South Korea’s economy per year, that stance could be softening.

Earlier this week, politician Noh Woong-rae – a member of the ruling Democratic Party – said that the government should come up with an alternative for the band.

“Their role in boosting Korea’s prestige to the world is impossible to measure”, he said, according to the Telegraph. “We must start a serious discussion on offering special alternatives to military conscription to the group’s members. Military duty is sacred, but not everyone has to hold a rifle”.

With Jin’s deadline for his time in military service rapidly approaching, some sort of decision will need to be made soon. Although, right now, the group are concentrating on the release of their second album of the year, ‘BE (Deluxe Edition)’, on 20 Nov.