Will BTS members have to fulfill military duties? South Korea leader says it’s ‘desirable’

The public is still bitterly divided on whether or not BTS members should be granted exemptions, and it appears that the South Korean military wants to enlist members of the K-pop ensemble for compulsory military service.


In order to preserve fairness in the nation’s armed forces, Lee Ki Sik, commissioner of the Military Manpower Administration, told lawmakers on Friday that it is “desirable” for BTS members to complete their military obligations.

At a parliamentary committee hearing earlier this week, Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup made nearly identical remarks concerning BTS, while Culture Minister Park Bo Gyoon stated that his ministry would shortly clarify its stance on the matter.

One of the most contentious concerns in South Korea is whether the band’s seven members must enlist in the military because Jin, the oldest member, may do so after reaching 30 in December.

All physically capable men in South Korea are obligated to serve in the military for 18 to 21 months. Athletes, classical and traditional musicians, as well as ballet and other dancers who have taken home top honors in competitions that boost a country’s status are also given specific exemptions under the statute.

The government can take action to give specific exemptions without changing the law. However, prior exemptions for competitors who excelled in undesignated competitions sparked a heated discussion about the system’s fairness.

The avoidance of military obligations or the granting of exemptions is a very delicate subject because the draft forces young men to put their professional lives or academic pursuits on hold. BTS members should serve in the military, according to around 54% of respondents in one recent survey and about 61% of respondents in the other.

The National Assembly has received several conscription law proposals that would allow BTS members to be excused, but none of them have been put to a vote because of the fierce disagreement among politicians on the issue.

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Earlier, Lee, the defense minister, claimed he had directed authorities to take into account polling the public before deciding whether to exempt BTS. However, the Defense Ministry then declared that such a study will not be conducted.

In August, Lee stated that BTS members would probably be permitted to continue practicing and to travel abroad with other BTS members who are not currently serving. After three weeks of basic training, those who are exempt from the draft are discharged from the military. They must also put in 544 hours of volunteer work and stay active in their fields of expertise for another 34 months.

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