Will BTS Be Exempted From Military Service?

Updated on Aug 29, 2023 · By Tom

Banner Source: The Korea Herald

Military service in Korea is mandatory for all men, or almost. Recently there has been a big controversy on whether BTS members should be exempted from it. Let's see why.


Why does the Korean military service exist?


Source: Korea Expose

It may not be apparent in the West but North Korea still represents a threat for South Korea, the fragility of the diplomatic relations is not enough to maintain peace and both countries are prepared in case if the situation worsen. We can recall the Bombardment of Yeonpyeong in 2010 when North Korea bombed Yeonpyeong island, killing four and injuring dozens. This incident shows that tensions can quickly reescalate so the military service is here to help the population getting ready to defend themselves.


How does it work?


Source: The Japan Times

Korean young men are required to join military service anytime between 18 and 30 years old. As the duration of the service goes from 18 to 24 months depending on your branch, most Korean men enlist in their early twenties just before or during their college years. However most idols and actors delay it as much as possible to keep their young career's momentum such as G-Dragon that recently finished his service. Individuals having double nationality and living abroad must either come back in Korea to either enlist for their military training or abandon their Korean citizenship. Anyone escaping the service on purpose faces jail time or worse, the former idol Yoo Seungjun (유승준) has been banned from Korea because he became naturalised american just before having to enlist in his Korean military service. It was seen as an attemp to avoid it by the government.


Who is exempted?


Source: South China Morning Post

Currently individuals suffering from certain handicaps or diseases such as diabetes can either engage in non-active duty or be exempted alltogether.

Some artists and athletes participating in Korean prestige can be exempted. For example Son Heung-Min has been exempted because he won the AFC Asian Cup, or a pianist prodigy getting an injury in army could be permanently incapacited to exercise his art so he will also benefit from this exemption.

However, Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Hwang Hee recently manifested his will to also include popular culture-art figures under this exemption basis but it sparked lots of controvercies, mainly surrounding the most popular K-pop band in the world: BTS.

What about BTS?


Source: USA Today

After their recent triple win in the American Music Awards, BTS is now one of the most successful band in the history of these prestigious awards but it will not be enough according to The Military Manpower Administration. They judge that these awards are only given by fan votes or album sales, thus they are not backed by specific judging criteria. The military believes that it does not carry enough weight and that an universal law cannot be based on popularity or private awards: Have EXO contributed enough to Korean culture? What about Stray Kids, NCT, etc?

BTS oldest member, Jin, will turn 30 in December. Even if a law came to be voted it does look like he will have to enlist in his military service no matter what.

What do you think? Should they enlist in the military or have they already contributed enough to Korea's prestige?

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