Is Now the Best Time for Every BTS Member to Enlist in the Military?

South Korea requires that young men serve in their military. It’s a requirement that could wreak havoc on the success of the country’s popular K-Pop band, BTS. Of course, fans want the band to continue making music. They’re looking for a way to protect their favorite group, especially with the oldest member of the band, Kim Seok-Jin set to begin his service soon. But is there anything that can be done to keep BTS together?

Does BTS have to serve in the military?

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There are some exceptions from South Korean military service, but they’re rare, usually going to Olympic athletes not pop-stars. But that didn’t stop BTS fans from asking for their exception, and it seems even some Korean officials agree. 

“…Many people would understand that the number one Billboard chart contributed to national good as much as the Olympic gold medal,” Ahn Min Seok, a member of the South Korean National Assembly, said in a comment translated from Korean and reported by Newsweek.  

However, the fan request was denied. The Korean government determined that BTS will not be exempt from military service. Fans were, of course, disappointed, but it seems the group members themselves may not mind so much. In an interview with CBS News, Jin explained his feelings about military service. 

“As a Korean, it’s natural, and someday, when duty calls, we’ll be ready to respond and do our best,” he said. 

Can BTS serve in the military together?

V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin, J-Hope of BTS attend the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin, J-Hope of BTS | Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Since the exception request was denied, fans have switched to another tactic. There are currently two petitions online, one at Change.org, and another at The Petition Site, asking for BTS band members to be allowed to go through military service together. At the time of this writing, the petitions have collectively gathered over 132,000 signatures. 

Both petitions argue that allowing the band members to serve at the same time would save time in their career because they could return to music after the two-year period, with every member finished with their service. On the other hand, if they serve separately, the petitions argue that the band’s loss in popularity would severely impact South Korea’s economy, culture, and tourism.

There has been no announcement about whether this request will be granted, or if the BTS members even want to serve together. If they do, it means the band would have to take almost two-years off music. However, if they stagger their service, it means the remaining members would be free to pursue solo careers or the band could continue with fewer members. 

“A lot of K-pop groups have had time to establish members as solo acts, so when they go away they stagger it out,” Taylor Glasby, a freelance music journalist familiar with the K-pop industry, told the BBC. “With BTS if they were to do that, because of the age gap, we wouldn’t have a full band for years.”

What does the future look like for BTS?

Jin is expected to enlist in military service very soon, although we don’t have an official date yet. He was supposed to enlist sometime this year, but COVID-19 is causing delays across the world, and this may be no different.

BTS, along with Jin, was scheduled to tour North America on their Map of the Soul tour from April 25 to June 6, but this was canceled because of the virus, as well. Instead, last April, the group treated fans to a 12-hour online concert, called Bang Bang Con

There’s no official word yet on what will happen when Jin enlists in military service. However, if they all served together, this will mean a two-year hiatus for the band, when otherwise they could continue to release music in smaller groups. But serving individually would mean the whole group won’t be back together for a very long time- possibly over a decade! 

So, is now the best time for every BTS member to enlist in the military? Honestly, it’s kind of a toss-up, and fans have something to lose either way. But since they’re continuing to release music right up to the point where Jin is expected to serve, they may be planning to serve individually. However, there are plenty of fans who certainly wish different, and are willing to sign the petitions to make their voice heard.