One of the world's largest music groups, BTS, has been breaking music records. The South Korean group consists of seven members, each integral to the brand's success. It would be hard to imagine BTS without any of them. Rumors about the group disbanding caused much panic. Here's the latest on if does BTS has to join the military in South Korea?
Does BTS have to join the South Korean military? The answer remains unclear.
According to The New York Times, in South Korea, there is a legal requirement for able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 28 to enlist in military service for at least 18 months. This is seen as a patriotic duty to ensure the country's safety. Making it mandatory helps South Korea maintain its massive military, totaling over 620,000 members.
In the past, special circumstances have been granted to some citizens, including athletes and musicians. The idea behind this draft exemption is that these citizens help to enhance national prestige.
However, this special leave previously didn't extend to K-pop artists — including the members of BTS.
Fans were worried about this exemption for quite some time, wondering if it would eventually be amended to extend to K-pop artist Kim Seok-jin, better known as Jin, the oldest BTS member.
The star turned 28 on Dec. 4, 2020, and would have been required to pause his contributions to the massively popular group, to fulfill his draft duties.
There was no guarantee that Jin would be able to return to BTS when he finished his military service, marking the end of his music career for the foreseeable future.
As luck would have it — or rather lawmakers in South Korea — passed a law at the end of 2020 that directly impacted BTS. According to CNN, the South Korean parliament passed a bill allowing K-pop stars, like BTS, to defer their service the same way athletes can.
The law allows for exemptions to be given to people who "excel in popular culture and art," CNN reported. Per the revised law, a presidential order would decide the specific criteria for the special exemption.
To qualify for this, K-pop entertainers who wish to defer their military draft need to have received a government medal for their contribution to elevating the country's cultural influence.
Not only does this apply to Jin, but the six other members of BTS will qualify, too, since they each received the award in 2018, according to The New York Times.
This effectively means that Jin, being the oldest member of the group, can now wait till 2022 to enlist. The group's youngest member, 23-year-old Jungkook, will not have to serve in the nation's military until 2027.
The nation is reportedly considering allowing BTS to completely forego their military service requirements, but nothing is confirmed yet.
According to the latest reports from inside the South Korean government, per AllKPop, the group may be exempt from military service altogether if another new amendment is passed. Government officials were set to meet on Sep. 9, 2021, to discuss the "BTS Military Service Exemption Act" at their National Defense Commission. However, another report claims that the event was postponed and will take place at a later date.
If this new revision ends up being passed, the group members won't have to enlist even when they turn 30 and will become part of a select group of only 1804 South Korean citizens who never have to join the military. BTS members have expressed their willingness to serve when the moment comes, but now it seems that only time will tell if they will get to serve their country at all.