To the dismay of fans everywhere, a South Korean government official has announced that K-pop boy band BTS will not be exempt from their compulsory military service.
The announcement comes amid a rising call from fans to allow the group to be excused from serving, in recognition of their role in representing South Korean music and culture overseas.
"In the case of BTS, I personally wish I could allow exemptions for them under certain standards, but the Military Manpower Administration and the Ministry of National Defense (in charge of conscription) are inclined to downsize the overall scope (of exemption)," said Culture Minister Park Yang-woo on Tuesday, when he attended a meeting in Paris, reported Yonhap News Agency.
The exemption is usually reserved for athletes and classical musicians, who have brought pride to South Korea. Although BTS has arguably been the country's biggest pop culture export to date, according to officials, it’s harder to justify a military waiver for artists “in the popular culture and arts fields.”
This, even though BTS has broken Billboard records, performed in sold out concerts around the world, and become the first Korean music act to speak at the United Nations.
South Korea is still at war with North Korea and is technically only under a ceasefire, declared in 1953. For this reason, and amid rising tensions in the region, all able-bodied South Korean men aged 18-30 years old are required to serve a period of up to 2 years in the military.
BTS’ oldest member Jin, now 26 years old, is set to enlist in the coming months, with the six other members expected to join him in the coming years. It’s unclear whether the group has decided to go on hiatus or continue without other members.
But BTS isn’t the only world-famous group that has had to deal with this. G-Dragon of Big-Bang joined the military in 2018, to the dismay of his fans, and just ended his service in October.
The South Korean Military Manpower Administration also addressed the matter on Thursday.
“On the request that the exemption needs to be expanded to pop artists like BTS, which has raised national image, we decided not to waiver military service, considering the government position to enhance fairness and downsize the number of exemption due to manpower shortage," an official said.
Although many in the BTS Army (aka fans) are upset that BTS is joining the, er, actual army, the members, themselves, don’t seem too affected by it.
“As a Korean, it’s natural,” Jin told CBS reporters in April. “And, someday, when duty calls, we’ll be ready to respond and do our best.“