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BTS could be given an exemption from compulsory military service

K-pop band BTS could be given an exemption from compulsory military service in South Korea as the government considers allowing singers to serve their country as ‘art personnel’

  • A South Korean government minister has suggested laws could be changed to allow K-pop superstars BTS to avoid compulsory military service
  • The boy band could be reclassified as ‘art personnel’ and thereby avoid serving
  • It comes after South Korea’s ambassador to Britain said he believes the band will ‘fulfil their obligations’
  • ‘BTS Law’ passed in 2020 allowed band to postpone service until they turned 30
  • Band’s oldest member Kim Seok-Jin, known as Jin, will turn 30 later this year 

A South Korean government minister has suggested that laws could be changed to allow K-pop superstars BTS to avoid compulsory military service.

All able-bodied Korean men between the ages of 18 and 28 must enlist for roughly two years of military service under the present Military Service Act.

However pop stars like BTS could be reclassified as ‘art personnel’ and thereby avoid serving, according to Variety.

Loophole: A South Korean government minister has suggested that laws could be changed to allow K-pop superstars BTS (pictured in May 2019) to avoid compulsory military service

‘It’s time to create a system for incorporating popular culture-art figures as art personnel,’ announced Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Hwang Hee this week at a press briefing, according to reports by the Yonhap news agency.

He said he aims to push a new law through parliament that would allow pop stars like BTS to serve their country outside the military.

A 2020 amendment to the Act allows K-pop stars to postpone service until they turn 30. Previously, all South Korean men were required to enlist by age 28.

Several members of BTS are now fast approaching 30, raising questions about if or when they will begin their 20 months of military service.

National duty: All able-bodied Korean men between the ages of 18 and 28 must enlist for roughly two years of military service under the present Military Service Act

BTS’ oldest member, Kim Seok-Jin, better known as Jin, will turn 30 in December.

‘The [exemption] system has been operated meaningfully to give those who have enhanced the national status based on their excellent skills more chances to contribute to the country, and there is no reason the popular art-culture field should be excluded from this,’ said Hwang on Wednesday. 

‘Somebody should be a responsible voice at a time when there are conflicting pros and cons ahead of the enlistment of some of the BTS members.’ 

A class of their own: Pop stars like BTS could be reclassified as ‘art personnel’ and thereby avoid serving, according to Variety

The news comes after a leading diplomat said all seven members of BTS were ‘very much expected’ to serve in the South Korean army.

Gunn Kim, South Korea’s ambassador to Britain, shared his views on the K-pop phenomenon and their ‘obligation’ to their home country in the wake of growing tension between South Korea and its neighbour North Korea. 

Last month, North Korea claimed to have successfully test-fired a Hwasong-17 missile.

Expectation: BTS members are ‘very much expected’ to serve in the Korean army as soon as they each turn 30 and for a minimum of 18 months, said South Korea’s ambassador to Britain

Analysts say the long-range ballistic missile may be capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

But the weapon fired on March 24 is now believed to actually be a Hwasong-15, a smaller and less powerful missile first paraded five years ago, according to intelligence analysts in Seoul and Washington. 

Nevertheless, South and North Korea remain in a tense political situation.

Rising tensions: North Korea announced last month it had launched the Hwasong-17, which was first unveiled at a military parade in Pyongyang two years ago (pictured)

Speaking to The Sunday Times about BTS, which translated stands for ‘Bulletproof Boy Scouts’, Kim said: ‘It is very much expected that young Korean men serve the country and those BTS members are role models for many young Koreans.’

He added: ‘Most of our people expect that our members of BTS will fulfil their obligation as citizens of Korea. Eventually I think that will happen.’  

The boys have already received something of a small reprieve given their global status, which alongside millions of records sold includes more than 44 million followers on Twitter and a staggering nearly 62 million on Instagram.

North Korea claimed the missile fired recently is a Hwasong-17 – but analysts remain doubtful

In December 2020, South Korea’s national assembly passed the so-called BTS Law, which allowed members of the band to postpone military service until they turn 30.

But Kim Seok-Jin, who goes by Jin and is the band’s oldest member, turns 30 in December, sparking speculation that he may well be soon swapping dance moves for military moves.

In time, he will be joined by Suga, who is currently 29, J-Hope, 28, RM, 27, Jimin, 26, V, 26, and Jungkook, 24. 

BTS (pictured in 2020) have been allowed to delay their military service until they turn 30

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