Some South Korean Politicians Think BTS Should Be Exempt From Mandatory Military Service

BTS is in the midst of the most prosperous stretch of their career, but thanks to some South Korean laws, their ascent could be put on pause. In South Korea, able-bodied men between 18 and 28 years old are required to serve in the military for around two years, depending on the military branch. Men must enlist at the latest when they are 28 years old, so for BTS members, the clock is ticking.

For example, Jin, the oldest member of the group, turned 27 this past December, so he has until the end of 2021 to sign up. Meanwhile, his bandmates — RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook — are all between 23 and 27, so they too will have to enlist at some point in the next few years.

There are some politicians who think cultural forces like BTS shouldn’t have to do mandatory military service. Noh Woong-rae, a senior member of the ruling Democratic Party, said at a party meeting earlier this week, “Not everyone has to take up a rifle to serve the country.” Meanwhile, Democratic Party member Jeon Yong-gi proposed that K-pop artists be able to delay their service until they are 30 years old, so as to not disrupt their careers. He said, “For the sake of the fairness, we are not talking about exempting them from their duty, but pop musicians and artists like BTS — their careers can blossom in their twenties. We cannot let military duty block their way at the height of their careers.”

South Korean citizens seem pretty split on the issue, although most agree that some exception should be made for the group. 31.3 percent of respondents to a Kuki News survey believe BTS should be exempt from service, while 28.6 percent said their service should be delayed. Meanwhile, 30.5 percent thought they shouldn’t get special treatment.

The band previously addressed their military prospects in February, with Jin saying at a February news conference, “As a Korean, it’s natural, and someday, when duty calls, we’ll be ready to respond and do our best.” Jungkook added, “I don’t want to think about it at this point, we have something really good going.” RM said he treats every day of his fame as though it’s his last: “That’s the answer. We have to enjoy the ride, live in the moment — that’s all we can do.”