K-Pop and K-Dramas: BTS and Military Service

Red carpet photo of Min Yoongi (Suga), Kim Taehyung (V), Kim Seokjin (Jin), Jeon Jungkook, Kim Namjoon (RM), Park Jimin, and Jung Hoseok(J-Hope). Copyright goes to BTS and the HYBE Corporation.

Hey! Hallie here!

This topic keeps coming up, today being good example, and a lot of ARMYs are easily frightened by the idea that BTS will have to complete mandatory military service. Who wouldn’t be? It sucks that ARMYs at some point might have to wait nearly two years for each or all of the members to return to the fans. For those who don’t know, in Korea all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 28 must complete around one and a half years of mandatory service, in part to aid South Korea’s continuous feud with North Korea. This has affected MANY K-Pop groups before. Most recently Taemin of SHINee fame announced he would be enlisting at the end of May. Usually, for groups such as SHINee, each member serves their time when they come of age while the group continues to release music. This way the group stays in the public eye and only one member is missing at a time. However, BTS is a bit of a special case in this situation. So far BTS has effectively pushed back their enlistment date and those connected with HYBE entertainment have talked about sending all the members at once. So why is BTS different from other K-Pop groups in this case?

Popularity:

This is the main thing driving the debate around BTS’s enlistment. BTS is the most popular group in the world as of now. South Korea itself has never been more popular because of them. This popularity is causing a few new concerns to be brought up. One is the attention of the media; specifically media outside of Korea. BTS is so popular that American media has begun to report on their upcoming enlistment, and has even spread information about Korea’s enlistment program, which wasn’t a point of interest to American media before. Now worldwide fans are more knowledgable about South Korean affairs, and they’re furious. They don’t want to see BTS leave, even if it’s only for a year and a half. This is causing South Korea to become concerned that they’ll receive backlash if BTS leaves to fulfill their service time. If that wasn’t enough for them to consider, HYBE has been throwing another wrench in their plans. HYBE has voiced the possibility of sending BTS for military service all at once. If they sent one member at a time, like most K-Pop groups do, BTS could continue building their popularity while each member was gone. But sending them all at once sends a strong message to the South Korean government that BTS will not continue to benefit South Korea while they’re gone. It forces South Korea to decide how valuable they believe BTS is to their economy right now.

Exemptions:

You’ll see exemptions brought up often by those who oppose BTS serving in the military. South Korea has offered exemptions before. These generally go to citizens who take part in the olympics, classical musicians who have won competitions, and individual parties who’s contributions to South Korea have been dubbed exemplary. Considering that government officials have praised BTS for their contributions to South Korea, it seems ridiculous that BTS shouldn’t be considered among those listed above for exemptions. They have openly been praised by their country for boosting their economy in a way no one has ever done before. It’s clear they’ve served their country enough to earn exemptions. Many Koreans agree with this sentiment. Viral videos of Korean fans asking their elderly Korean parents and grandparents whether or not they feel BTS should serve military time have been making rounds. Most of the time the answer is always “no”. Even elderly Koreans, who were brought up viewing service in the military as one of the most honorable things you could do in your life, are so pleased with what BTS has done for the country that they feel they shouldn’t serve. In fact, many have said they don’t want to see BTS serve at all. They fear what their absence will do to the economy and they don’t think their talents should be wasted for a year and a half. Still, the South Korean government is wary of granting them these exemptions. They don’t want other K-Pop groups to feel that they are also entitled to exemptions if they allow BTS to avoid enlistment. So far South Korea has passed a law that allows BTS to wait a few more years until they have to enlist, but whether or not they feel they can exempt them is still being heatedly debated.

Public Statements:

It’s important to note that nothing about this has been formally announced by HYBE or BTS. No, not even today’s news. Today’s news, stating that BTS will enlist in the military together in 2022, was a prediction made by someone who had investigated HYBE’s practices in order to attempt to give an accurate reading on future HYBE dealings, including the date in when BTS would enlist. It was not an official statement made by HYBE. HYBE’s statement simply said that they stood by the comments made by BTS’s members in the past. These comments, made by various older members, only state that the members will be happy to serve, as is their duty. None of these statements refer to any actual plans set in place in regards to their military service. So while HYBE does seem to want to avoid putting BTS through military service, the company and the members have all agreed to comply with the government’s decisions and will not say much on the situation. We have no clear answers. I wouldn’t take any news about their enlistment too seriously unless it comes directly from HYBE, BTS, or the South Korean government.

ARMYs understandably panic anytime it seems like BTS might leave to join South Korea’s military, but, as of now, there isn’t anything to be concerned about. We still have no official plan or enlistment dates. Even the South Korean government doesn’t seem to know how this entire situation will play out as of yet. Take a deep breath. There’s nothing to be upset about yet. And even if they do leave, the fact that HYBE wants them to leave as a group means that we’ll get BTS back, as a whole, in no time. They’ll likely prepare content for the time that the boys are gone, and then we won’t have to wait for each member to singularly complete military service. And if you’re concerned that BTS might be put in danger while they serve, don’t be! There’s no way the South Korean government would put the members of the world’s biggest music group anywhere near the front lines. I hope that BTS do get exemptions because they deserve them, but even if they don’t, we can trust the boys will get back quickly and safely.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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