Pop titans BTS’ fate remains unclear when it comes to their pending military service. Defense Minister of South Korea, Lee Jong Sup, has maintained that it is desirable for the group to follow the mandatory service protocol. On October 4 at the National Defence Committee’s interpellation session, Lee was asked for his stance on the proposed bill by Kim Young Bae of the Democratic Party of Korea last month, which states that the cultural and sports icons like BTS, who have received merits from the government, should be allowed to do alternative service in the military. It is to be noted that in the year 2018, BTS received the Order of Cultural Merit for promoting the Korean wave, worldwide.
BTS’ military decision to be made by December, says Korea’s culture minister; Defense Minister says it is “desirable” that the group carries out mandatory service
According to KoreaJoongAng Daily, “Lee showed his disinclination toward exempting the BTS members from military service, he still said that he would respect the revised law if it does pass in Congress.”
Under the current law, all able-bodied Korean men are obliged to serve in the military. But with the culture minister’s recommendation, international award-winning athletes and classical musicians can complete their service while remaining active professionally. They are called alternative service for 34 months. Three lawmakers proposed bills earlier in 2021 calling for those exemptions to apply to a wider range of artists.
However, according to the media portal Yonhap, Culture Minister Park Bo Gyoon said on Wednesday that his ministry will make a decision by December. The decision would be whether the group needs to be exempted from active service. "The ministry will determine its position as early as possible as the conscription issue of BTS' oldest member Jin will be concluded in December," Park said. The media portal also states that Lee Yong Ho of the ruling People Power Party will be positively considering the exemption of BTS.
BTS’ label HYBE’s CCO Lee Jin Hyung, back in April 2022, addressed ongoing concerns around the members of BTS’ pending military enlistment. At the press conference of their Las Vegas concert, Lee said, “It’s true that we are wary of speaking about this [matter], because we know how important the issue of military service is in Korea,” the CCO said, before adding, “We hope that a decision will be reached on the amendment to the Military Service Act as soon as possible.”
It is to be noted that the “BTS military service amendment” law was passed considering its clear implications for the group, which allows artists who receive the recommendation of the Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism to postpone their mandatory service until they turn 30 years old by international reckoning. As per the current law, BTS’ oldest member Jin, who turns 30 (international age) this year in 2022, has to enlist for military service by the end of 2022.
Lee Jin Hyung further said, “The BTS members have currently left the matter of their military service in the hands of the company. BTS has already conveyed the message multiple times that they will accept the call of duty when the nation calls them, and they have not changed that opinion. However, the policy on military service has changed a little, and as the members are experiencing changes to the Military Service Act that they did not expect, they are currently monitoring the situation while discussing the matter with the company.”
Jin Hyung further confirmed that while the company was wary of taking that decision for the group, the members left the matter in the hands of HYBE. He said, “The company told BTS that after the new amendment to the Military Service Act was proposed, we were wary of making a decision in regard to their military service, and the BTS members maturely accepted this and left the matter in the hands of the company.”
The HYBE CCO further explained, “To put it precisely, the policy on military service is changing, and it’s true that the BTS members are having a hard time because it’s difficult for them to predict the timing [of their military service]. Since it’s difficult for them to make plans, both the BTS members and the company are currently keeping a close eye on the proposed amendment. Ultimately, we plan to do our utmost so that a decision can be reached that is beneficial to both our society and BTS.”
“As the matter of BTS’s military service is something that the entire world is interested in, it appears that the debate [over the issue] is nearing an end both within society and within the National Assembly, so we hope that the issue will be resolved within this current National Assembly,” he continued. “If the issue passes on to the next National Assembly, the debate will continue without any promises, and because it’s true that the uncertainty [over BTS’s military service] is making things difficult, we hope that [the National Assembly] will reach a decision as soon as possible.”
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