The South Korean government has announced the possibility of a public survey to determine whether to grant BTS exemptions from mandatory military service.
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Debates over the necessity of BTS’ fulfilment of local military conscription requirements have long been a point of public contention, which have recently intensified as the boyband’s oldest member, Jin, is due to turn 30 this December. The law calls for all male Korean citizens – no older than age 30 – to enlist in the military for mandatory service.
On August 31, The Korea Times reported that South Korea’s defence minister Lee Jong-sup told lawmakers that he has ordered officials to implement a survey to gauge the public’s opinions on BTS’ enlistment. Lee also allegedly said that his ministry will look into other contributing factors to the decision, including the economic effect BTS has on the country, the significance of military service and overall national interests.
After his alleged comments became controversy, the South Korean defence ministry later clarified in a separate statement, per The Korea Times, that Lee had ordered officials to examine whether such a survey would be needed before launch, instead of an immediate initiation.
The new statement also shared that officials were asked to flesh out the details prior to the survey’s launch, including the agency responsible for the conducting of the survey, how long it would take and who would be surveyed.
The statement emphasised that a third party organisation would carry out the survey if it were to happen in order to ensure fairness. The ministry also maintained that the survey would only be one of the many factors determining the final decision of BTS’ enlistment exemption.
The news comes shortly after the mayor of Busan city proposed to the South Korean presidential office that BTS be granted an alternative to – but not an exemption from – the country’s military service mandate. The mayor cited BTS’ roles as ambassadors for Busan’s bid to host the World City Expo in 2030 as a reason for his proposal last month.