South Korean defence minister Lee Jong-sup has expressed his reluctance toward exempting members of boyband BTS from compulsory military service.
On October 4 at the National Defence Committee’s interpellation session, Lee was asked for his opinion on a bill proposed by Kim Young-bae of the Democratic Party of Korea last month, which aims to allow pop celebrities like BTS, who have received merits from the government, to serve an alternative form of military service.
According to KoreaJoongAngDaily, the defence minister stated that it is “desirable that members of BTS carry out their mandatory military service”. However, Lee also added that he would “respect the revised law if it does pass in Congress”.
This follows the statement he made shortly after Kim’s bill was proposed, in which Lee said it would be “difficult” to extend this alternative [military service] programme to BTS due to “aspects of fairness on fulfilling mandatory military service”.
In his original proposal, Kim suggested for existing provisions for athletes, actors, directors and classical musicians who have made a significant international impact be made available to decorated pop musicians such as BTS. “Korean pop celebrities active in the international field make unimaginable economic and social contributions,” he said at the time, per The Korea Times.
Under current South Korean law, BTS’ oldest member Jin, who turns 30 in December, will soon need to begin his military service. This has led to intensified debates on the issue of the boyband’s conscription in recent months.
BTS are set to take over Busan later this month in support of the city’s bid to host the World City Expo in 2030. In addition to holding a free concert, HYBE has teamed up with several entertainment venues and businesses to turn the city into a “concert play park” throughout the month.