Music

Do BTS have to do military service?


BTS have so far been granted permission to delay their military service, but could they get an exemption? (Picture: Etienne Laurent/EPA-EFE/Rex/Shutterstock)

Chart-topping K-pop group BTS are a global musical force to be reckoned with, having become the best-selling artists in South Korean history and being the first all-South Korean act to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with their record Dynamite.

Since Dynamite’s release in August 2020, the band has also notched up a further four US number one singles with Savage Love, Life Goes On, Butter and Permission to Dance, making them the fastest act to claim five number ones in the US since Michael Jackson.

Members Jin, 28, Suga, 28, J-Hope, 27, RM, 26, V, 25, Jimin, 25, and Jungkook, 24, have also gathered Grammy Award and Brit Awards nominations, as well as six American Music Awards and nine Billboard Music Awards.

In the UK, BTS has had two number one albums with Map of the Soul: Persona and Map of the Soul: 7 hitting the top spot in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

However, fans are keen to know how (and when) BTS’ home country’s military enlistment will affect the group.

Do BTS have to do military service?

Jin is BTS’s oldest member, and will turn 29 in December (Picture: EPA)

Rules state that all able-bodied South Korean men between the ages of 18 and 28 must serve in the country’s military for around eighteen months to two years, depending on the branch of the services they join.

As it stands, all of BTS currently sits within that age bracket, with 28-year-olds Jin and Suga right at the top.

However, after BTS’s (and South Korea’s) first US number one with Dynamite in August 2020, the Korean National Assembly’s Defense Commission approved a revision to the Military Service Act to grant an exceptional right to defer military duties of acclaimed pop artists, who are recognised to have contributed to the elevation of Korea’s global reputation.

BTS continued their global chart domination in May with Butter (Picture: EPA)

Proposed by Jeon Yong-gi of the Democratic Party, the bill, which was passed in December at the National Assembly’s plenary session, gives BTS members and ‘globally recognised’ pop stars the right to postpone their enlistments until the age of 30.

Jin turns 30 on December 4, 2022, while Suga will follow suit on March 9, 2023.

As arguably the most popular K-pop stars in history, BTS certainly fulfils the bill’s requirement for postponement as contributing to the country’s economy, as well as promoting its culture.

Who is exempt from military service in South Korea?

BTS could be in line for an exemption (Picture: Image Press Agency/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock)

Women can enlist but it is not mandatory.

Exemptions or deferrals have only initially been given to internationally successful athletes and classical musicians.

Tottenham Hotspur footballer Son Heung-min earned exemption after winning gold at the 2018 Asian Games, but had to complete mandatory basic military training, which he did in May 2020.

Award-winning pianist Cho Seong-jin was also granted an exemption.

However, today the ‘BTS military service exemption act’ is reportedly being discussed by South Korea’s National Defense Commission, with the committee debating whether to also include popular cultural artists as exempt from military service via new amendments to the Military Service Act.

Son Heung-min in action for South Korea’s national football team (Picture: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Previous K-pop stars who have stepped away from their careers for national conscription include BIGBANG members T.O.P., G-Dragon, Taeyang and Daesung, while 2019’s cohort included SHINee’s Key and Minho, 2AM’s Jinwoon, and VIXX’s N.

However, all must contend with the fast-paced music industry and a possible wane in popularity upon their return, something which South Korea could be looking to avoid in BTS’s case.

Jin has previously said that the BTS stars were ready to be called up.

He told CBS: ‘As a Korean, it’s natural, and someday, when duty calls we’ll be ready to respond and do our best.’

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