Amid North Korea’s recent military provocations, the members of the K-pop hit band BTS could be drafted into the South Korean military. NBC’s Maura Barrett reports for Saturday TODAY.
K-pop stars BTS appear to be moving closer to enlisting in South Korea‘s military draft. While public opinion remains sharply divided over whether BTS should be exempt from mandatory military service, the country’s military seems inclined to conscript supergroup members for military service. According to the Associated Press, the Military Manpower Administration commissioner, Lee Ki Sik, “told lawmakers on Friday that it’s “desirable” for BTS members to fulfill their military duties to ensure fairness in the country’s military service.”
South Korea’s government is reportedly close to deciding whether to mandate the world’s most prominent pop groups to serve in the military. Culture Minister Park Bo Gyoon told lawmakers earlier this week that the government would soon decide on the matter. Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup also said he supported BTS’s drafting during a parliament meeting. After turning 30 in December, Jin, the band’s oldest member, may have to enlist early next year after becoming eligible for military service.
All non-disabled men are required to serve 18-21 months in the military under South Korean law. However, athletes, classical and traditional musicians, and ballet and other dancers who have won top prizes in certain competitions that increase national recognition are exempt from the law. The government can grant special exemptions without a revision of the law.
In the past, exemptions were granted to people who excelled in non-designated competitions, triggering a heated debate about fairness.
Dodging military duties or creating exemptions is controversial since the draft forces young men to postpone their careers or studies. According to a recent survey, 61% of respondents support exemptions for entertainers like BTS, while 54% support military service for the members of BTS, reported The AP.
The National Assembly has introduced several amendments to the conscription law that would exempt BTS members, but they have not been voted on due to sharp divisions among lawmakers. A public survey was ordered by Lee, the defense minister, to determine whether exemptions should be granted to BTS. Later, the Defense Ministry said it would not conduct such a study.
Lee said in August that BTS members could practice and join non-serving members on overseas group tours if they joined the military, said The AP.
People exempt from the draft are released from the military after three weeks of basic training. As part of their professional obligations, they must also complete 544 hours of volunteer work and remain active in their professions for 34 months. BTS were denied an exemption from military service in 2019.
More than 84,000 people signed a Change.org petition asking the then-President of South Korea, Jae-In Moon, to allow each group member to fulfill their duties together. The members of BTS are currently engaged in different solo projects. In June, the group’s label, Big Hit, dispelled rumors of a hiatus. That same month, they released their latest project, a retrospective called Proof. <AP/popculture.com>