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Bill would boost BTS' chance of military duty delay


Korea’s military recruitment agency said Tuesday it will push for legislation to give outstanding entertainers more room to continue their careers by putting off their mandatory military service in recognition of their contribution to the country’s reputation.

In a parliamentary audit report, the Military Manpower Administration said it is seeking to revise the military service law to enable those who are recommended by the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism to postpone their obligation to complete 18 to 22 months of military duty.

“We are considering allowing them to delay the mandatory service until the maximum age limit (stipulated by law),” said Mo Jong-hwa, chief of the Military Manpower Administration during an audit session held at the National Assembly.

Under the current law, a man can put off enlistment five times until the age of 28.

“The revision is aimed at boosting the national image by guaranteeing popular culture and art activities,” Mo said, adding that the revised bill will be submitted to the National Assembly this month.

The agency said it would attach a condition that the referral granted by the government can be called off for those who fall into disgrace.

Buoyed by growing global following of Korean pop culture, a long-standing debate has intensified here as to whether K-pop stars and other artists who are in the prime of their careers should be given exemptions from the military service, or at least be allowed to defer their enlistment.

In the center of the debate is undoubtedly the massively popular K-pop group BTS which President Moon Jae-in praised for “writing a new chapter in K-pop history and (increasing) the nation’s pride,” when it recently claimed the No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart with its latest single “Dynamite.”

All the seven members of BTS are in their 20s. The eldest, Jin, 28, who has to join the military by the end of December this year, could postpone his military enlistment until 2022, if the Assembly gives the green light to the revision plan.

Under the current law, military manpower offices postpone the conscription for those who meet certain criteria -- a student attending high school or higher educational institution, a person who is taking a course at a training institute and an outstanding athlete who grows national prestige.

During a parliamentary audit session on Oct. 7, Defense Minister Suh Wook said that the government could consider a deferral for the group members but ruled out the possibility of exemption for the time being.

Meanwhile, the military agency maintained hardline stance toward Steve Yoo, also known as Yoo Seung-jun, a Korean American singer who has been banned from entering the country for over 18 years after avoiding the draft in 2002 by giving up his Korean citizenship to became a naturalized US citizen.

“If he is allowed to enter the country and resumeshis show biz activities here, soldiers who are serving their military duties will be bereft. The ban should go on as performing sacred military service obligations is more important,“ Mo said.

In March, the Supreme Court ruled that the South Korean diplomatic mission in Los Angeles violated the due administrative procedures while denying Yoo‘s request for visa issuance.

Yoo filed a new suit against the consulate in July as it refuses to grant an entry visa to him again despite the ruling.

By Park Han-na (