All able-bodied South Korean males between the ages of 18 and 28 are expected to serve in the military for approximately two years as part of the country’s efforts to protect itself from North Korea.
The amendment to the military service law passed on Tuesday was designed to provide exceptions for K-pop megastars that improve the country’s cultural status and boost the economy.
South Korea allows eligible students to defer enrollment for up to 28 years and has granted exemptions for high-level classical musicians as well as sportsmen and athletes who have won medals at the Olympics or at other important games. Tottenham Hotspur football player Son Heung-min is among those who have already been granted a bye.
So far, no K-pop star has been granted exemptions, but the new bill will ensure that artists recommended by the culture minister can defer their service until the age of 30.
BTS’s oldest member Jin, 27, nears the enlistment deadline as the seven-member boy band is rewriting K-pop history.
Since launching in 2013, BTS has sparked the global K-pop craze with upbeat and catchy music, as well as lyrics and social campaigns aimed at empowering young people.
They recently landed a No.1 hit debut single on the US charts with the song Dynamite and won an unprecedented Grammy nomination as a K-pop group. Her new song Life Goes On also became the very first Korean song to rank No.1 on the Billboard Main Singles Chart.
BTS continues to break records! https://t.co/knCAglQYFY
– billboard (@billboard) December 1, 2020
“Pop artists tend to have their greatest achievements in their twenties, but many of them had to pursue higher education to delay their service,” said Jeon Yong-gi, co-author of Bill.
BTS management Big Hit Entertainment did not respond to a request for comment on the legislative change, but Jin and others in the group have previously said they will perform their duties as required.
“As a Korean, it’s natural. And someday when duty calls us, we’ll be ready to respond and do our best, ”Jin said in 2019.
Military service is a controversial issue in South Korea.
A poll released last month by local outlet E-Today showed that about 53% of respondents supported special treatment for BTS, while 47% opposed it.