South Korea Passes ‘BTS Law’ Allowing Boy Band Members To Postpone Military Service
The South Korean Parliament has passed a bill that grants the nation’s most prominent K-pop stars the ability to put off mandatory military service an extra two years, until the age of 30. It’s a spot of good news for BTS‘ oldest member, Kim Seok-jin, also known mononymously as Jin, who turns 28 this Friday, Dec. 4.
As per South Korea’s Military Service Act, all able-bodied men aged between 18 and 28 must conscript and serve for about 20 months. The law meant Jin would’ve had to put a pause on artist activities soon after his birthday to serve in the military.
BTS have frequently mentioned in interviews and press conferences that they are ready to serve when the time comes. However, the South Korean National Assembly decided that time shouldn’t come for a while.
According to the new amendment to the Military Service Act passed Tuesday, “a pop culture artist who was recommended by the Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism to have greatly enhanced the image of Korea both within the nation and throughout the world” is allowed to postpone their service until the age of 30.
Before the amendment, the only exceptions given were to high-profile athletes, like Olympians or Asian Games medal-winners, and award-winning classical musicians – people who boost national prestige. These criteria had recently come under question, with many arguments claiming that the biggest K-pop stars boost national prestige, as well.
Because of their enormous success, the question of BTS’ enlistment, especially, has been under the spotlight. In September, shortly after the band topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the first time with their hit single “Dynamite,” the revision of the Military Service Act was proposed.
“It’s a sacred duty to defend our country, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to carry a weapon,” said senior lawmaker Noh Woong-rae in October, regarding the proposal.
Last week, BTS became the first Korean group to receive a Grammy nomination. On Sunday, their album BE became their fifth Billboard 200 chart-topper in a row. On Monday, their song “Life Goes On” became the first non-English song in history to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
On Tuesday, the Military Service Act was revised.
The postponement’s announcement was met with pride and excitement from BTS’ fans, known, coincidentally, as the ARMY. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the band’s planned 2020 world tour was cancelled, and both BTS and ARMY have been waiting for a chance to see each other again. The new amendment will give the seven members some extra time to spend touring and making music together, before at least Jin has to enlist.
“It is prime time for K-pop idols in their 20’s to perform and meet with fans, so the military enlistment is an obstacle for not just the artist himself but also the management company in making marketing plans,” said K-pop columnist Ha Ja-keun. “Knowing that they can postpone until 30 will definitely loosen the emotional anxiety over military conscription.”