BTS is writing a new history for K-pop history. However, they still have a problem called “military service” which unfortunately seems to be the biggest obstacle to BTS’ career.
BTS is writing a new history for K-pop history. They broke down the Billboard concrete and is shaking the world with their stadium tour. Now, it is hard to list what their achievements are, as their records change when they wake up. It is now the birth of a world-class Korean artist who represents Korea.
However, they still have a problem called “military service” which unfortunately seems to be the biggest obstacle to BTS’ career. Jin, the oldest brother, who was born in 1992, is required to fulfill his mandatory military service as early as next year. Suga is also known to have difficulties in overseas activities in the second half of next year due to the new enlistment law.
In fact, it will be difficult to see BTS performing as a whole team from next year. This is a fatal career break for BTS who has achieved unprecedented results.
◆ Concern about interrupting the ‘BTS Effect’
BTS is the upper-tier “cultural gold medalist” who takes the lead in promoting national prestige. However, starting next year, the absence of full line-up activities will be considerably longer if the members fulfill their mandatory military service in turn. The 5-year gap between the eldest Jin and the youngest Jungkook might seem like a simple number, but it will be a long period of time and might affect BTS heavily.
Of course, serving in the military is a natural responsibility for any Korean male. “As a Korean, joining the military is a responsibility. I’m preparing to respond to the call of the nation that will come someday and I will do my best,” BTS has said in a resolute reference to their enlistment.
However, their enlistment is expected to entail huge national losses as well as a break in their career. BTS’s contribution to the national economy is not small at all.
According to a study, the number of foreign tourists created by BTS is around 800,000 a year on average. It is more than 7% of the nation’s annual tourists. Analysts say the economic effect, including exports of consumer goods such as clothes and cosmetics, is estimated to be 5.5 trillion won. On top of that, BTS’s value in enhancing the image of a country called “Korea” cannot be translated into figures.
Since BTS’ individual capabilities are outstanding, it is possible to continue their activities in various ways, including units and solo, but the overall trend will inevitably be dampened. Considering that they are currently the representatives of Hallyu, direct and indirect blows are inevitable. In many ways, BTS’ enlistment is costly.
◆ The alienated pop culture world
The question of BTS joining the military has already been deeply affected by the events happened last year. After the South Korean national football and baseball teams received special military service exemption by winning gold medals at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, news of BTS topping Billboard’s main album chart “Billboard 200” sparked heated debate over the military service exemption once again.
In particular, the backlash grew as some of the players on the Asian Games baseball team were criticized for being selected for the national team after delaying their military service, and they were given a gold medal without doing much for the team. Controversy intensified after a flurry of petitions containing the aforementioned content appeared on the bulletin board of the presidential office Blue House.
The system that gace military exemption people who have contributed to the development of the arts and sports field, has stirred controversy since its establishment in 1973. After a few revisions, it is currently benefiting Olympic Bronze medalist or higher, Asian Games Gold medalist, international art competition runner-up or higher and domestic art competition champion.
The problem is the controversy over equity. The issue of equity regarding military service benefits has been steadily raised over the past few years that special benefits apply only to certain occupational groups. In particular, there have been a series of claims of discrimination in that the benefits are limited to sports and art fields and the pop culture community is strictly excluded.
Ha Tae-kyung of the Bareunmirae Party also expressed doubts about fairness. Ha said, “When I looked at the list of special military service exceptions, it was completely unfair. For example, there are competitions of classical music, such as violin, but pop music is nowhere to be seen. If you win first prize on the Billboard, you don’t give any exemption from military service. There is also ballet, but there is no B-boy. There is a first prize for stage play, but the first prize in the movie field is not on the list,” he said. “The key is that it should be fair, regardless of whether there are many special listings for military service or not.”
◆ How do you determine the criteria?
In terms of equity, many say that the unfair application of special cases in different sectors is contradictory, but the problem is that it is unclear to set a clear standard for applying such an exception.
In the case of pop culture, it is difficult to designate a public indicator that the majority will accept because there are no general competitions like the Olympics or the Asian Games. For example, the Billboard chart or Billboard Music Awards is clearly recognized as a global award, but in fact, given the level of special application, there is a vague problem that limits the number of charts or awards inside the country. Many argue that applying this to popular culture requires a basis that is acceptable to the public.
In fact, there were benefits in other directions related to celebrity service under the “entertainer soldier” system, but the career extension in the pop culture industry has been completely blocked as even that was abolished due to various problems. Some are calling for changing the benefits so that military service can be delayed instead of the special exemption system.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is also aware of the problem. However, the Military Manpower Administration is reportedly showing some passive attitude. As the issue of military service exemption became public debate last year, the Military Manpower Administration said it plans to review the special exemption for sports and arts specialists in general, but no significant progress seems to be made.
Whatever they say, BTS benefits the whole country. Although many agree that military service responsibility should be applied fairly to anyone at the age of military service, there is also a growing debate that whether the targets for military duty should be uniformly applied or not.