BTS members will serve in South Korea’s military, group managers say – Orange County Register

By KIM TONG HYUNG | Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — The members of K-pop band BTS will fulfill their mandatory military duties under South Korean law, their management company said Monday, effectively ending a debate over whether they should be granted exemptions based on their artistic accomplishments.

Big Hit Music said the band’s oldest member, Jin, will rescind his request for a stay of military service later this month and will take the necessary steps. The six other BTS members also plan to serve in the military and “look forward to reconvening as a group after their promise of service around 2025,” the company said in a statement.

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No further information was given about the time of her service. The band members performed together in Busan over the weekend to support the city’s bid for the EXPO, which their label says will be their last concert as a group until they finish military service.

Hybe Corp., Big Hit’s parent company, said in an email to The Associated Press that each member of the band will initially focus on individual activities planned around their military service rosters.

In a letter to shareholders, Hybe CEO Park Jiwon downplayed financial concerns surrounding the BTS hiatus, saying the company has a sufficiently diverse artist base, including other popular K-pop groups like Le Sserafim and NewJeans as well as Western artists Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande.

“We have always been aware of the possibility of mandatory military service and have made long preparations to be prepared for that moment,” Park wrote. “In the near term, individual activities for multiple members are planned into the first half of 2023, and we have secured content ahead of time that will allow BTS to continue their commitment to fans for the foreseeable future.”

The announcement came after Military Manpower Administration commissioner Lee Ki Sik told lawmakers this month that it was “desirable” for BTS members to perform their military duties to ensure fairness in the country’s military service.

After enlistment, Jin and other BTS members receive five weeks of combat training before being assigned to specific units and duties, according to Military Manpower Administration officials, who stressed that the singers would go through the same process as other South Korean men.

While the South Korean military had for years contracted employed entertainers to perform duties related to the production of radio and television material promoting the military, the “entertainment soldier” system was shut down in 2013 after complaints about fairness.

Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup said in August that if BTS members join the military, they are likely to continue practicing and join the overseas tour group.

Whether the BTS members will need to serve in the army has been a hotly debated topic in South Korea, as Jin faced possible conscription early next year. Jin turns 30 in December, the age at which men can no longer delay conscription. Other members are currently aged between 25 and 29, with Suga turning 30 in March.

Under South Korean law, most able-bodied men are required to serve 18 to 21 months of military service, but special exemptions have been granted to athletes and artists who excel in certain international competitions tied to national prestige.

The band – whose other members are J-Hope, RM, Jungkook, V and Jimin – formed in 2013 and has a legion of worldwide supporters who call themselves “Army”. BTS members will serve in South Korea’s military, group managers say – Orange County Register

Adam Bradshaw

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