BTS members face possible conscription in South Korea

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The South Korean military wants to recruit members of K-pop supergroup BTS for mandatory military duty.

Military Manpower Administration commissioner Lee Ki-sik told lawmakers on Friday that it was “preferable” for BTS members to serve in the military to ensure fairness in military service in the country.

Earlier this week, Defense Minister Lee Jong-seop made nearly identical comments about BTS at a parliamentary committee meeting, while Culture Minister Park Bo-kyun said his ministry would soon finalize its position on the issue.

Jin, the band’s oldest member, may enlist early next year after turning 30 in December, so whether the band’s seven members have to serve in the military remains an open question. , is one of the hottest issues in South Korea.

Korean law requires all able-bodied people to serve in the military for 18 to 21 months. However, the law provides special exemptions for athletes, classical and traditional musicians, and ballet and other dancers who have won top prizes in certain competitions that enhance the nation’s prestige.

RM, from left, speaks alongside other K-pop supergroup BTS members V, Jungkook, Jimin, Jin, J-Hope and Suga during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, May 31, 2022. Central. The South Korean military appears to want to conscript members of the K-pop supergroup BTS and make them mandatory for military service. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, file)

Absent a change in the law, the government can take special measures. However, past exemptions for those who performed well in non-designated competitions have caused serious debate about the fairness of the system.

Avoiding military service or creating exemptions is a highly sensitive issue, as conscription forces young men to stop their professional careers and studies.

In one recent survey, about 61% of respondents supported exemption for entertainers such as BTS, and in another survey, about 54% said BTS members should serve in the military.

Several amendments to the conscription law that would pave the way for BTS members to be exempted were introduced in the Diet, but lawmakers were largely divided on the issue and did not vote.

Lee earlier said he had ordered authorities to consider conducting an official inquiry to decide whether to grant exemptions to BTS. However, the defense ministry has since said it would not conduct such an investigation.

In August, Lee said that if a BTS member enlisted in the military, they would likely be allowed to continue practicing and join other BTS members on overseas group tours.

Those who are exempt from conscription are discharged after three weeks of basic training. You must also complete 544 hours of volunteer work and remain in service in your professional field for 34 months. BTS members face possible conscription in South Korea

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