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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 9 March 2021

K-pop band BTS gets public support to postpone or skip military service

Jin, 27, the oldest member of the band would be required to sign up by the end of next year

There's been growing support to allow K-pop superstars BTS to postpone or even skip mandatory military service in South Korea. AP Photo
There's been growing support to allow K-pop superstars BTS to postpone or even skip mandatory military service in South Korea. AP Photo

South Koreans are calling for members of popular K-pop band BTS to be granted alternatives or delays to mandatory military service. Lawmakers and fans argue they are doing plenty for their country without donning a soldier's uniform.

By law, all able-bodied men in South Korea aged between 18 and 28 must serve in the military for about two years, as part of the country's defence measures against North Korea.

The eldest member of the band, Jin, is 27 and will be required to sign up by the end of next year. The other six will reach the age of conscription over the next few years.

South Korea has previously granted exemptions for high-profile athletes such as Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min as well as classical musicians such as award-winning pianist Seong-Jin Cho, but there have been none for K-pop stars.

"Not everyone has to take up a rifle to serve the country," said Noh Woong-rae, a senior member of the ruling Democratic Party. His comments at party meeting on Monday received widespread media coverage.

Mr Noh said BTS members could instead work as ambassadors during their overseas travels to promote a group of islets at the centre of a territorial dispute with Japan.

His comments came after a proposal by fellow party member Jeon Yong-gi last month to revise the law so that some K-pop stars could delay military service until the age of 30.

"For the sake of the fairness, we are not talking about exempting them from their duty, but pop musicians and artists like BTS – their careers can blossom in their twenties," said Mr Jeon.

For the sake of the fairness, we are not talking about exempting them from their duty, but pop musicians and artists like BTS – their careers can blossom in their twenties

Jeon Yong-gi, Democratic Party

"We cannot let military duty block their way at the height of their careers."

The public appears to support special treatment for the band with a massive global fan base, which also became the first South Korean group to reach No 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

A recent survey by domestic news website Kuki News showed about one-third of respondents believed the band should be exempt from military service, while another one-third supported a postponement.

BTS's label, Big Hit Entertainment, declined to comment on the matter, while individual members of the band have previously said they are willing to complete military service.

"Military service is the natural duty and when duty calls, I will respond any time," said Jin in February.

Big Hit, which plans to go public on the stock market on October 15, has said in its IPO prospectus that military service is a key risk for investors.

That has not stopped investors jumping on the offering, however, with orders from retail investors totalling $50.3 billion won, about 607 times the value of shares on offer, lead arranger NH Investment & Securities said on Tuesday.

Scroll through the gallery below to see BTS through the years:

Updated: October 6, 2020 05:26 PM

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