BTS is increasingly earning great achievements from Korean to international markets, but how they maintain their peak when some members are about to enlist still remains unknown.
2019 continued to be a successful year for BTS when in just the first half of the year, the group had a lot of great achievements. They won the No. 1 Billboard 200 chart with their “Map of the Soul: Persona” album, becoming the first Asian artist to receive the Top Duo/Group award among many well-known competitors, winning the Top Social Artist award for 3 years consecutive at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards ceremony.
BTS’s achievements make a new history for the Korean music industry and with this speed, they can certainly go further, even have the opportunity to win the Grammy award – the dream of any artist. But time was not in their favor. The moment the members have to perform military service is near. Based on Korean law, it is likely that by 2020 Jin will be the first member in BTS to enlist. The other members will also have to go later, so it would take a long time for BTS to reunite with the full lineup.
Therefore, many people worry that BTS’s activities without full members will greatly affect the chain of achievements they are establishing. So how will BTS solve this difficult problem, which scenario will happen to the group when the date of the enlistment is close?
Scenario 1: All members join the army at the same time
This is what almost all ARMYs want to happen. The public and the fans were used to the fact that BTS always had seven people, and the members taking their turn to enlist, which means a long-time separation, will make many people depressed and regretful.
If BTS joins the army at the same time, they will only have to temporarily stop working for more than 2 years and then return will all the members, saving more time than going one by one. The audience won’t have to get used to the new lineup because after all, the power of BTS is only maximized when they have the full squad.
But this scenario is not possible when Big Hit Entertainment has only two groups, BTS and TXT. TXT has just debuted not long ago and still has not brought a big profit so BTS is still the backbone of the whole company. If BTS joins the army at the same time, Big Hit will lose a huge revenue in a long time, so the company’s operation will likely be affected.
On the other hand, being absent in more than 2 years may negatively affect BTS’s reputation. The Korean and international music market has fierce competition, if there is no member to maintain their reputation, they will face the risk of being forgotten by the public and the junior groups will surpass them. Who can guarantee that the popularity of BTS remains the same after all 7 members disappeared for a long time?
Scenario 2: Each member enlists one by one, BTS works with the rest or go solo
Jin will be the first member to enlist in the period of 2020 – 2021, followed by Suga. No matter who it is, it is possible that the BTS will remain active with the rest of the members.
This is also a popular way in the Kpop industry, one typical example is Super Junior. When the older members performed military service, the group still released new music without a full lineup. When the younger members join the army, the older members return and continue their comeback. Or like EXO, Xiumin is going to enlist in the army, and the group will continue to maintain with the rest.
During the time the members enter the army, the rest of BTS could focus on individual activities such as solo debut, acting, or becoming a producer for other artists.
Scenario 3: Work with sub-unit groups
Because of the reputation and profitability problem, it is possible that the members who come of age will still enlist, those who stay will form small groups to operate, keeping the heat of the name BTS.
The small group model is quite feasible for BTS because it brings a new feeling and does not make the fans feel empty when faced with an incomplete squad. The fans also used to be excited when the members combined into sub-units in previous albums, the songs of vocal-line (Jin, V, Jungkook, Jimin) or rap-line (J-Hope, RM, Suga) are well received.
Small group models are also more likable than solo activities. If they form small groups, everyone is equally active, rather than leaving only 1 or 2 go solo, which easily leads to more controversy in BTS.
Scenario 4: Opportunity to be exempt from military service
Because of the great achievements in the music career, there have been many opinions that BTS should be specially exempted from enlistments like those with great achievements in sports or big music competitions.
Whether BTS deserves to be exempt from military service has become a controversial topic in the Korean public. BTS has many amazing achievements, contributing to promoting Korean culture with international fans and if they don’t have to enlist, they will devote more to the Korean’s art. However, many argue that this group must also perform the same obligations as any male to ensure fairness, and no one should be given an unfair advantage because of their achievement.
However, this scenario is not likely to happen because no decisions have been issued yet. Moreover, if this happens, the group’s reputation will be affected by the negative opinions of the public. On the other hand, BTS themselves have claimed that they have never thought of this situation and will perform their military duties fully and seriously.
It will be a time for BTS to fulfill their obligations to the country like many other Kpop artists. Until then, no matter which scenario, BTS and Big Hit Entertainment will probably have careful calculations to balance the group’s activities.
Whether BTS can maintain their reputation after a long time of being absent? We’ll find out in the future. But one thing is for sure that all 7 members consider military service very normal, as Jin once said: “If that day comes, we will be ready to respond and do our best”.