Why BTS’ Military Service Enlistment Might Be Reconsidered for Exemption

It’s impossible to ignore the worldwide impact of BTS. In recent years, the group paved the way for other K-pop artists by dominating Billboard charts and spreading their message to millions of passionate fans. Now, in the height of their popularity, the oldest BTS member, 26-year-old Jin, nears the age of mandatory military service in South Korea, causing the band’s future enlistment to come into question time and time again. But, will BTS actually enlist in the military or will there be an exemption? Here’s everything you need to know thus far.

Korean Ministry of Defense shuts down the possibility of BTS military service exemption

Jin and Jungkook from BTS | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Jin and Jungkook from BTS | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

South Korean male citizens are required to enlist in the military between the ages of 18 and 28 — previously 18-35. The compulsory military service takes approximately two years. However, the length of service may be reduced to 18-22 months by 2022, per the CIA.

As of now, there are a few exemptions for military enlistment. Among them are athletes who have achieved global recognition, such as the Olympic Games medalists or the Asian Games gold medalists. Meanwhile, award-winning musicians in classical music, such as violin and piano, are also exempted, according to The Guardian. But, there is no such precedent for K-pop groups like BTS.

On Sept. 19, officials for the Korean Ministry of Defense told The Hollywood Reporter an exemption for BTS’ military service enlistment was not possible.

“The Ministry of Defense is currently debating with related authorities on improving the current alternate service [program] in place of conscription, but nothing has been decided as to when a change may take effect,” an official told the publication.

Discussion about BTS military service enlistment reopened

Nevertheless, it seems the discussion in regards to BTS’ military enlistment is being reopened, as government officials express their desire to “review” the band’s mandatory service. According to United Press International, Yonhap News reported the K-pop group’s military service exemption was brought up during a parliamentary audit on Oct. 18.

Minister of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, Noh Hyeong-ouk, spoke before Democratic Party of Korea congressman, Kim Byung-wook, and suggested BTS’ 5.6 trillion won impact on South Korea’s economy should be taken into consideration when determining the status of BTS’ military service exemption.

“BTS ranked No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard charts, and the band has had an annual $4.75 billion impact,” the government official said, as translated and converted by UPI. Noh also noted the military exemption should be changed according to the era of service, per Star News.

Noh then called for the review of the military service exemption policy in regards to the K-pop industry, as reported by UPI.

“We need to review the need for an open-door policy regarding special exceptions from military service in the K-pop industry, in order to provide motives for Korea’s expansion as a cultural content powerhouse,” Noh said.

What BTS says about enlisting

As mentioned, Jin is nearing the deadline to enlist. Born on Dec. 4, 1992, the “Epiphany” singer is currently 26-year-old. Without an exemption, Jin will likely enlist in 2020. And the member has already opened up about the subject in the past.

“As a Korean, it’s natural, and someday, when duty calls, we’ll be ready to respond and do our best,” Jin told CBS in April 2019.

Then more recently, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Jin opened up about BTS’ touring plans once he leaves for Korea’s compulsory military service.

“Nothing is set in stone, obviously, regarding to military duty,” Jin said. “But the most important thing would be [that] it’s our duty to serve and when we’re called we’ll serve in whatever capacity we can, and until that time we just perform as hard as we can and as much as we can.”

Despite previous statements by the South Korean Military of Defense, it seems officials are now willing to discuss BTS’ military service enlistment following their economic success. But, for now, nothing has been officially determined. So fans will have to wait and see what happens next.

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