BTS won’t get exemption from military service, authorities confirm

K-pop megastars BTS will have to serve their compulsory military service, after South Korea’s Defense Ministry announced that it would not be issuing a change to its exemption rules.

South Korea has compulsory conscription, and almost all healthy men are required to serve time in the army. Top artists, musicians and sports players can get exemptions from serving the full military service — but top K-pop stars do not.

That’s caused consternation among some fans, and prompted a debate about whether the exemptions should be extended to include bands like BTS, which has topped charts, won a number of international awards, and built up South Korean soft power in the process.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry has been reviewing the exemptions rules — but on Thursday, it announced that it wouldn’t be extending them to include pop stars.

A Ministry of Defense official, Lee Nam-woo, announced at a briefing, Thursday, that rather than extending exemptions, it had decided to tighten them to prepare for a shortage of manpower due to the falling birthrate.

Under the new rules, fewer people from the industrial and research sector will qualify for exemptions. There will be no change to the artist exemptions, Lee said.

South Korean law requires all men to register to start their military service by the time they are 28.

All seven members of BTS are in their 20s. The oldest Jin — whose real name is Kim Seok-jin — turns 27 in December, meaning he will need to register to start his military service in the near future.

However, he won’t need to spend as long in military service as past K-pop stars. Previously, conscripts needed to serve two years, but that’s being gradually reduced so that by June 2020, conscripts will only need to serve 1 year and six months. In October, K-pop mega star G-Dragon was released from 20 months of compulsory military service to hordes of welcoming fans.

But even before the government completed its review, the band’s management indicated that the BTS members would perform their service.

“The company believes military service is a duty,” Bang Si-Hyuk, who runs BTS’s label Big Hit Entertainment, told the Hollywood Reporter. “We will try to show the fans the best of BTS until, and after, the members have fulfilled their service duties.”