A subcommittee of the South Korean National Assembly’s defense committee reached a standstill in its deliberations on changes to the Military Service Act, the so-called BTS law, Thursday.
The subcommittee discussed whether the country should grant exemptions from military service to pop artists who have helped elevate its global standing. The bill, if passed, would allow K-pop stars to work in their field for 34 months under an alternative program instead of undertaking active-duty service for the usual 18 to 22 months.
A subcommittee official said the debate between the ruling and opposition parties on the pros and cons of the changes had grown more intense. Therefore, the subcommittee needs to hear more opinions from the public and discuss the matter further, the official added.
The Defense Ministry stressed the need for “prudence.” Amid the nation’s shrinking population and other factors, the country needs to be careful about making decisions that could exempt K-pop sensation BTS and other top artists from military service, it said.
“We cannot help but consider situational variables when it comes to revising the bill. ... Public consensus is also needed. So to speak, it is about a fair military service,” Boo Seung-chan, the ministry’s spokesperson, said during a regular press briefing.
Under the current law, all able-bodied Korean men are obliged to serve in the military. But with the culture minister’s recommendation, international award-winning athletes and classical musicians can complete their service while remaining active professionally. Three lawmakers proposed bills earlier this year calling for those exemptions to apply to a wider range of artists.
If the law is revised, BTS could be exempted from military service in recognition of its contributions to the country’s image. However, BTS’ eldest member, Jin, can only postpone his military enlistment until the end of the year, when he turns 30, under the latest revision to the act that came into effect last year.
By Jie Ye-eun (email@example.com