South Korea’s military appears to want members of the K-pop supergroup BTS for mandatory military duties, as the public remains sharply divided over whether they should be given exemptions.
Lee Ki Sik, commissioner of the Military Manpower Administration, said that it’s “desirable” for BTS members to fulfil their military duties to ensure fairness in the country’s military service.
Earlier, Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup commented about BTS at a parliamentary committee meeting, and Culture Minister Park Bo Gyoon said his ministry would soon finalise its position on the issue. Whether the band’s seven members must serve in the army is one of the hottest issues in South Korea because its oldest member, Jin, faces possible enlistment early next year after turning 30 in December.
According to South Korean legislation, all physically fit men must serve in the military for 18 to 21 months. Athletes, classical and traditional musicians, and dancers who have earned top honours in competitions that boost national prestige are all given specific exemptions under the law.
Without a revision of the law, the government can take steps to grant special exemptions. But past exemptions for people who performed well in non-designated competitions triggered serious debate about the fairness of the system. As per current survey, about 61% of respondents supported exemptions for entertainers such as BTS, while in another, about 54% said BTS members should serve in the military.