The controversy over whether BTS will be exempt from military service is expected to intensify once again.
Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Hwang Hee held a briefing on the establishment of a new system for public cultural and artistic personnel at the Seoul Government Complex in Jongno-gu on the morning of May 4th and expressed his view on the need for popular cultural and artistic personnel to be included in the military service excemption.
Various disputes are likely to arise due to the fact that the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, who coordinates popular music and culture and arts policies, spoke up about this when the minister has only five days left in office nearing the launch of the new government on May 10th.
Moreover, there is a rising concern that the revision of the Military Service Act, which calls for incorporating pop culture artists into the definition of art personnel, has not yet crossed the threshold of the National Assembly, which could lead to various political battles.
BTS Jin, the eldest member of BTS, was born in 1992, and the deadline for delaying his enlistment is until the end of this year. Considering that it usually takes months to implement the bill after it is promulgated, the amendment to the military service law currently pending at the National Assembly must be passed within the first half of the year at the latest to benefit Jin.
On the same day, Minister Hwang seemed to be aware of some opposition to the revision of the Military Service Act, as he used “people who received presidential medals of merit and more” as a standard for military service exemption, and mentioned the “social contributions” that BTS and HYBE contribute to young people in their 20s and other people.
However, related debates are expected to heat up as the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism once again publicly mentions the issue, which is a hot potato not only in politics but also in society.
In November last year, the National Assembly deliberated on a revision to the Military Service Act to allow pop culture artists who contributed to promoting national prestige, such as BTS, to replace their military service as art and sports agents, but the passage was temporarily suspended.
Politicians have shown a steady interest in the story of military service exemption for BTS, who has been active worldwide. This is seen as an opportunity to win the favor of BTS’s powerful fandom “ARMY.”
In fact, the BTS members have hinted at their will to join the military, saying that national defense is a natural duty, apart from the noisy discussions of the world. However, it is true that the members have been suffering from uncertainties as the music industry and political circles show greater interest in their military service benefits, and the timing of their enlistment becomes unclear as the surrounding environment changes rapidly.
Lee Jin-hyung, general manager of HYBE Communications (CCO), also said at a recent meeting in Las Vegas, the U.S., “It is true that our artists are having a little hard time because the military service system has changed in recent years and it is difficult for us to predict the timing.”
However, confusion is intensifying as related discussions only become more complicated rather than concluding related issues.
According to a recent survey on 5,039 adult men and women from April 15th-26th on the issue of BTS’ military service exemption, 36.0% of adult men and women responded that “it is unfair to divide military service standards between non-celeb and Hallyu celebrities.”
On the other hand, 34.6% showed a tight stance on the military service issue by showing the response that it was “a state-level treatment for those who raised the national prestige.”
As BTS is a global supergroup, foreign media are also paying attention to this issue. Recently, the British Guardian detailed the issue of military service exemption in an article titled “South Korea split in row over military service for BTS.”
The Guardian pointed out, “Less than three weeks before South Korea’s new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, takes office, the country is gripped by a debate over who, if anyone, should be exempt from compulsory national service.” In addition, “South Koreans are divided over plans that will soon be debated in the national assembly to allow the performers, who are all in their 20s, to skip almost two years in uniform in recognition of their stellar contribution to the country’s international reputation.”
In a conference call held immediately after the announcement of the performance the previous day, HYBE said, “At this point, the timing and method of the members’ enlistment have not been decided. We can only give you a limited answer. We will share the details when they are decided,” it said.