While various opinions about BTS’s military service are surrounding, only BTS and ARMY are suffering from damages.
The National Defense Commission’s Legislation Review Subcommittee deliberated over the Military Service Act at the National Assembly on November 25th to allow popular cultural artists like BTS, who contributed to the promotion of national prestige, to replace their military service with arts and sports personnel. However, it was put on hold without reaching a conclusion.
BTS recently became the first Asian singer to win the grand prize at the American Music Awards, one of the top 3 popular music awards in the U.S. BTS is also enjoying their best year as they were also nominated at the Grammy Awards. More activities from BTS in 2022 are expected, but we may not be able to see BTS as a whole group for a while beginning from next year.
This is because the eldest member of BTS – Jin, who was born in 1992, has to enlist by December next year when he turns 30. The current Military Service Act stipulates that those who are eligible to be arts and sports personnel are top winners of domestic and foreign fine arts competitions, the Olympics, and the Asian Games. Popular culture artists are not mentioned here.
However, due to the system of enlistment postponement for popular cultural artists that takes effect from June this year, those who receive the cultural medal and recommendation from the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism for contributing to the promotion of national prestige can postpone their enlistment until the age of 30.
The Korean Music Contents Association and the pop music world are strongly hoping for the bill to pass. It is against equity that only the popular culture sector is omitted under the current military service law. They insist on granting BTS the benefits of art and sports personnel and allowing them alternative service instead of military service.
If BTS, which currently has the highest stock price, joins the military, its agency HYBE and the whole K-pop world will be negatively affected overall due to the nature of the industry. They argue that the damage of Hallyu brands will lead to national damage, so BTS and other popular cultural artists should also be qualified to have the same military benefits as art and sports personnel to secure the industry’s continuity.
On the other hand, related agencies such as the Ministry of National Defense and the Military Manpower Administration are actually opposing this idea. Defense Ministry spokesman Boo Seung-chan said in a regular briefing, “We have to consider situational variables such as a sharp drop in the population, and social consensus is also needed considering fair military service performance. It is necessary to be cautious about expanding the scope of military service exemption of art and sports personnel.”
The Military Manpower Administration also said, “The incorporation of popular cultural artists into art and sports personnel requires careful review with related ministries in consideration of objective standards and equity based on public consensus.”
Political circles have also consistently expressed interest in the incorporation of popular cultural artists into art and sports personnel in terms of military benefits. Politicians from various political parties have expressed their thoughts on this, but it is hard to find a politician who has clearly achieved results or has taken a stand.
While there are various voices regarding BTS’s military exemption, BTS and ARMY are suffering the damage alone.
BTS has never asked for exemption from military service in the first place. Rather, Jin revealed his intention of enlisting, “Military service is a natural duty of a young Korean man. I am always ready to respond to the country’s call to serve.”
ARMYs have also consistently supported BTS’s enlistment. Although it is a pity that there will be a hiatus, they said that they would respect and support BTS members’ will as they have expressed their intention of enlisting.
In particular, ARMYs are regretting that BTS members are suffering damage because of military service exemptions that they have never asked for. BTS said nothing, but people around them are demanding an exemption, which makes it seem that BTS is hoping for an exemption.
ARMYs claimed that even if the bill under the name of BTS is passed, it is doubtful whether BTS will benefit from it. They also raised their voices in criticism, such as “Aren’t you trying to use BTS as a human shield?”, “Why do you bring BTS to the forefront?”, “You’re tarnishing BTS’s reputation”…
Amid such diverse voices, discussions on the incorporation of BTS and other popular cultural artists into art and sports personnel are expected to continue for a while.