All South Korean men between the ages of 18-28 are required to serve in the nation’s military for at least 18 months. That hard fact has hung over the heads of ARMY practically since the launch of BTS nearly a decade ago, no more so than now when eldest member Jin, 29, faces enlistment by December. While the country’s allows for some elite athletes and classical musicians to avoid the mandatory military stint, there is currently no similar exemption for pop artists.
But according to the Yonhap News Agency, South Korea’s Culture, Sports and Tourism minster Hwang Hee said during a news conference on Wednesday (May 4) that the rule should change. “It’s time to create a system for incorporating popular culture-art figures as art personnel,” Hee reportedly said. “The system has been operated meaningfully to give those who have enhanced the national status based on their excellent skills more chances to contribute to the country, and there is no reason the popular art-culture field should be excluded from this.”
For now, qualified athletes and classical musicians can do alternative service in their fields instead of active military duty as part of their role in promotion their country’s image abroad. And, to the delight of ARMY, Hee specifically mentioned BTS as part of the pitch to broaden the exemption rule. “I thought somebody should be a responsible voice at a time when there are conflicting pros and cons ahead of the enlistment of some of the BTS members,” said Hee, who is slated to step down from office on Monday to make way for the newly elected conservative government of People Power Party leader Yoon Seok-youl.According to Yonhap, Hee asked that parliament approve the exemption bill as soon as possible.Back in 2018, the nation passed a revision of the Military Service Act (which some referred to as the “BTS Law”) that allowed K-pop stars to postpone their military service until they turn 30. The law allowed K-pop entertainers to apply for a deferment if they’ve received government medals for elevating South Korea’s cultural influence around the world. All seven members of BTS qualified after being awarded the country’s Hwagwan orders of cultural merit from the government in 2018 during the Korean Popular Culture & Arts Awards.