BTS to Fulfill Military Service Starting Early 2023


On October 15, BTS held the “BTS-Yet To Come-in BUSAN” concert at the Busan Asiad Main Stadium. They are dancing to their song, “IDOL” in that concert. Image courtesy of Yonhap News.

Ahn Soyeon, Staff Writer

   On October 17, BTS officially announced through their agency, HYBE, that they had decided to fulfill their military service in South Korea.

   In South Korea, men over the age of 19 are required to join the military, and usually go between the ages of 20 and 24 after high school or college. However, the age at which young people who are engaged in popular culture go to the military is relatively late, usually in their late 20s or early 30s.

   BTS members will join the army in order of age. Jin, the oldest member at the age of 30 this year, has canceled the postponement of his military enlistment and is planning to follow the Korean military enlistment procedure as early as this year. Starting with him, BTS’ military enlistment will begin in earnest, and people around the world will not be able to see all the members of BTS together until 2025.

   For more than four years, there has been controversy over whether the Korean government should give military service exemption to BTS, who have promoted the national prestige of South Korea and helped to spread K-pop around the world. Political circles also continue to discuss the pros and cons of BTS’ enlistment in the military because there could be national damage in terms of economy and culture, however, if they don’t join the army, there will be problems with equity and fairness.

   According to an article written by Kim Arang for Newspim publication, “61 percent of men in their 20s in Korea were adamantly opposed to BTS’ exemption from military service”. Kim Ji-sung, who is about to join the military, said that men over the age of 19 are obligated to join the military according to the laws, and it is unfair to exempt only BTS from military service. 

   On the other hand, overall, regardless of age or gender, “51 percent of Koreans are in favor of BTS’ exemption from military service,” as stated in an article written by Choi Won-jin for Newspim publication. Han Ji-min, a 17-year-old ARMY (BTS fandom), said she was devastated to hear that BTS had to join the military. BTS is bringing huge profits of at least $3.5 billion to society every year and creating a good image of Korea, and she mentioned that without them, there would be billions of dollars in economic losses. She also added that, while Lim Yoon-chan, a pianist who won the International Concours, is exempt from military service, it is unfair that BTS is not allowed to be exempted.

   The Korean government has designated that only athletes who have won medals at international events such as the World Cup or Asian Games, and classical artists who participate in International Concours or dance competitions can be exempt from military service. These athletes and artists receive only basic military training and implement an alternative service that serves society for the rest of the required time. However, under the current law, people in the pop culture community like BTS are not exempted from military service. 

   This has led to another issue of equity. Many people have questioned whether it is fair to exempt only athletes and classical artists from military service while not including pop culture artists as well. Some argue that pop culture artists, who also contribute to national interest and promote Korean culture, should also be exempted from military service and given special opportunities such as alternative service systems.

   Since BTS has not been given exemption from military service, it is expected that military service exemptions will be more difficult for pop culture artists to obtain in the future. However, there could be other BTS-like groups or figures in Korea, so lawmakers may try to create a system that balances out and creates equity through serious discussions. 

   BTS is a Korean idol group in its ninth year since their debut and has topped Billboard Music charts. They also have an international fandom, “ARMY,” and their influence is great. 

   ARMY hopes BTS will be able to return safely from service and they can’t wait to see BTS all together again. People all over the world are cheering and applauding the decision made by BTS.