The Korea Herald


BTS to enlist in military in order, starting from oldest bandmate Jin

By Park Jun-hee

Published : Oct. 17, 2022 - 18:14

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Boy band BTS (Big Hit Music) Boy band BTS (Big Hit Music)

After months of clashing opinions about K-pop sensation BTS’ military exemption, the band’s agency Big Hit Music announced Monday evening that the seven bandmates would enlist in the military in order, starting from Jin, the oldest member.

The band’s agency said via a press release that Jin will cancel postponing his enlistment at the end of this month and will adhere to the Military Manpower Administration’s enlistment procedures. It added that the other six bandmates would fulfill their mandatory military service according to their own plans.

“We’ve been working with BTS regarding the band’s military service plans and when would be the right time to announce the news. We decided that now would be appropriate, as the concert for the 2030 World Export has ended,” the statement read.

Big Hit Music added that it hopes to see the septet as a full piece in 2025, but asked for understanding in its not being able to provide the exact timing for a full group comeback at this point. The company hinted that the boy band would temporarily go on hiatus for the time being.

The company also said that the bandmates would continue their promotions and activities individually in accordance with the group members’ military enlistment plans. “We ask for your interest and encouragement toward BTS in the future,” the statement further read.

All able-bodied South Korean men between the ages of 18 to 28 are required to serve in the country’s armed forces for about 18-21 months. There is an exemption and alternative service system for athletes and artists recognized to have promoted “national prestige,” defined as having won designated international awards or national contests.

But since those competitions do not include international music awards, singers and actors in the entertainment industry have to take a break for roughly 1 1/2 to 2 years to serve in the military.

Jin, 29, was able to postpone having to join the military under the nation’s conscription system.

In December 2020, South Korea’s National Assembly recognized BTS’ global success by passing a revision of the nation’s Military Service Act, allowing leading K-pop stars to postpone their mandatory military service until they turned 30 instead of 28. The change enabled Jin, whose real name is Kim Seok-jin, to continue performing for two more years at a point that could cause a break in his career.

Boy band BTS performs during its concert “Yet to Come” at the Asiad Main Stadium in Yeonje-gu, Busan. (Big Hit Music) Boy band BTS performs during its concert “Yet to Come” at the Asiad Main Stadium in Yeonje-gu, Busan. (Big Hit Music)

Over the past few years, bills have been proposed to revise the military service act to allow an exemption for well-known celebrities, but none have been passed.

Last year, Rep. Sung Il-jong of the then-main opposition People Power Party said he had proposed a bill that would excuse men from military service for promoting national prestige in realms broader than the previous definition. The broadened exemptions would apply to top K-pop stars like BTS and athletes who set national records.

In August, Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup remarked during a parliamentary defense committee meeting that there could be a way to allow BTS members to perform overseas while carrying out their military service.

Lee Ki-sik, the commissioner of the Military Manpower Administration, also echoed the view that the agency is reviewing various options for alternative service to help the boy band continue its activities ever after enlistment.

Opinions on whether or not BTS should be granted the benefit of being excused from miliatry service, as it has won several honors from big-name ceremonies such as the Billboard Music Awards, ignited mixed responses.

A survey by Gallup Korea in April of 1,004 Koreans aged 18 and older showed that more than half of all respondents -- around 59 percent -- agreed that the band should be issued special treatment. However, this doesn’t represent national consensus on such a sensitive issue.

Meanwhile, following the band’s announcement, Jin will be obliged to enlist by the end of this year. The other six bandmates -- Suga, RM, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook -- are also expected to fulfill their mandatory two-year military services.