K-pop boy group BTS’ oldest member Jin (30, Kim Seok Jin), who is enjoying global popularity, recently began his military service.
According to the pop music industry on Dec 14th, BTS as a group will enter the “military hiatus” for the time being, starting with Jin’s enlistment. Jin was admitted to the boot camp of the 5th Infantry Division in Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi Province on Dec 13th. His scheduled discharge date is June 12th, 2024.
“Military hiatus” is mainly used in the entertainment industry, meaning that male celebrities cannot engage in activities while serving in the military. For K-pop boy groups, which focus on group activities rather than individual activities, military hiatus is the starting point for a change in their future activity plan. As each member has a different time of enlistment and discharge, the group break is bound to be long. Fans who are tired of the group hiatus sometimes even leave the fandom. When asked on a K-pop-related community site whether there were many people who leave the fandom during the military hiatus, many commented, “Yes.” “First of all, I came to like other groups during the military service period,” and “There was a saying that an idol’s life end when he goes to the military,” many added.
In fact, there are not many groups that continue to do group activities after their military service hiatus. Shinhwa, g.o.d, TVXQ, Super Junior, and 2PM are still releasing albums and holding concerts as groups even after their military hiatus.
On the other hand, there are many groups that were active before the members joined the army, but have little team activity after they got discharged. MBLAQ and INFINITE are representative examples of this case.
As a result, strategies regarding military hiatus varies from group to group. Some continuously provide new content, which are pre-recorded, to prevent fans from leaving. Perfect examples of this strategy are DAY6 and ONEWE, whose members are serving in the military but they recently released a new song.
Among the boy group members in the military, EXO Baekhyun is an idol who still actively communicates with fans. Baekhyun has been serving as a social service worker since May last year, due to which he has stopped uploading content such as YouTube videos. However, he is communicating with his fans by using social media in his spare time outside of work hours. The Ministry of Defence allows phones to be used after work.
Other members who were not fulfilling their military service worked hard to maintain the group’s presence. BTOB released group albums, solo albums, and concerts without a break, excluding enlisted members.
In particular, the remaining members appeared on Mnet’s “Kingdom: Legendary War”, a program where rookie boy groups appear to raise their public recognition. BTOB, an experienced group, unexpectedly joined the lineup. However, for the team’s sustainability, the members agreed to participate in “Kingdom” after discussing with the members who were serving in the military. Fans also expressed their joy, saying, “We are happy that the group contents have increased compared to before the military period.”
BTS is also expected to provide various team contents prepared before enlistment as well as solo activities of members who have not yet enlisted. Park Ji Won, CEO of HYBE, said in a shareholder letter in October, “Some members’ individual activities are scheduled until the first half of 2023. We plan to make sure that BTS can be with fans with various contents prepared in advance.“
Opportunities for male idols to communicate with fans while serving in the military are emerging recently. In the past, the entertainment soldier system, which allowed celebrity soldiers to meet the public steadily during their military service, was abolished in 2013 due to various side effects. However, the military has been actively trying to utilize them as a large number of K-pop idols have joined the military.
An example of active use of this is creative musicals produced by the army. Members of SHINee, EXO, and Infinite all appeared in military musicals. As these musicals were staged at private theaters, idols serving in the military could meet fans. In particular, EXO’s Chanyeol performed EXO’s representative song “Growl” in the army musical while serving in the military. He also received a great response from fans around the world who watched it online.
EXO’s Xiumin became interested in musicals after challenging with musicals in the military. He appeared in large-scale productions such as the musical “Hades Town” after being discharged. Block B’s P.O, who is serving in the military as a Marine Corps, is also in charge of MCing at the Marine Corps events.
An official from a K-pop agency said, “There are many cases where idols become interested in areas they didn’t know about, such as acting, and develop themselves while serving in the military. If you make good use of your military period, you will have a chance to show off your new charm in your 30s.“