The next generation of K-pop stars, BTS, is at the center of the controversy about mandatory military service in South Korea. The seven-member Korean boy band BTS, which has become a worldwide phenomenon, will hold a concert titled “Yet to Come” on October 15 at Asiad Main Stadium in Busan, South Korea. As many as 100,000 fans are anticipated to attend.
Free and live-streamed, the concert supports Busan’s bid to host the World City Expo in 2030; nonetheless, it has rekindled speculation over the group’s future and whether or not this will be their final performance. BTS revealed earlier this year that they would take a break to work on their respective projects.
Since then, frontman J-Hope has released a solo album and played at the Lollapalooza music festival; other members are rumored to be working on solo projects of their own. However, some of its members may soon be required to enlist in the South Korean military.
As a result of legislation passed by the National Assembly in 2020, the group members have postponed their induction into the army until they reach the age of 30, a significant professional achievement in the K-pop industry.
With the group’s eldest member, Kim Seok-jin, aka “Jin,” turning 30 in December, fans are asking if the K-pop idols will be exempt from the draught like the country’s top athletes and musicians.
Brief Background On South Korea’s Exemptions
There is a longstanding tradition in South Korea of exempting exceptionally talented athletes, actors, dancers, and musicians from military service. Olympic and Asian Games medalists, as well as Grammy- and other award-winning classical artists, are excused from military service thanks to a 1988 law that laid the groundwork for the current exemption rule.
There have been around 170 athletes and 280 entertainers who have been exempted since then. Choo Shin-soo (right fielder for the Texas Rangers) and Ryu Hyun-jin (pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers) are well-known MLB players who have been granted exemptions. Recently, following the 2018 Asian Games, when the South Korean national soccer team defeated Japan to win gold, the players on that team were given an exemption.
For BTS, What’s Next?
Earlier this year, a bill was introduced to authorize exceptional idols to perform an alternative service. In 2018, “Hallyu” leaders BTS were awarded the Order of Cultural Merit to be eligible under the law. However, others have questioned the fairness of broadening military exemptions.
While a public vote on BTS’s fate was being considered, the government ultimately decided against it. In contrast to a poll taken in 2020, which showed a more even split between those in favor and those against exempting the brightly-haired singers from military duty, a survey conducted earlier this year found that about 60% of respondents favored doing so.
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