Yeoncheon, South Korea
K-pop supergroup BTS entered a new era on Tuesday as its eldest member Jin began compulsory military service under tight security at an army training center in South Korea.
Jin, 30, will spend 18 months in uniform after entering Yeoncheon military base in North Gyeonggi Province, where security personnel and media outnumbered a few hundred fans who had gathered to catching a glimpse of the star – ignoring her earlier calls for them. stay away.
A motorcade of six black vans, meant to carry Jin and his security personnel, entered the base shortly before 2 p.m.
Many banners along the causeway greeted Jin and the other recruits at the base, which is less than 10 miles from the demilitarized zone that separates South Korea from North Korea.
Among the conscripts joining the 5th Infantry Division on Tuesday was Kim Seok-jin, 20, from Daejon – who shares the same full name as the superstar recruit.
While waiting outside a restaurant across from the base with his parents, Kim showed off his trendy new haircut – the same style Jin had gotten days earlier – and said he was nervous waiting to walk in.
“But I’m also excited to come in with Jin,” he said, adding that he hoped they could become friends.
Military service is compulsory in South Korea, where almost all able-bodied men must serve in the military for 18 months at the age of 28.
South Korea’s parliament passed a bill in 2020 allowing pop stars – namely those who “exceed in popular culture and art” – to defer service until age 30.
In October, BTS’s record label said all seven members of the group planned to undertake their military service. BTS is expected to reunite as a group again around 2025, according to BIGHIT Music.
Jin’s service will begin with a five-week basic training course before being assigned to a unit, based on standard practice.
Park Si-woo, 23, who underwent basic training in 2021, told CNN Jin would likely end up in barracks with about 40 other recruits sharing bunk beds.
Park said recruits would wake up around 6:30 a.m. to begin their daily routine, which includes physical workouts, as well as combat and weapons training.
Rookies have to ditch their cellphones, so Jin’s first contact will be through letters that fans can submit online, which will then be printed and given to him.
One thing Jin and the other rookies might enjoy is the food, Park said, adding, “We were given a lot of snacks during practice – beef jerky, butter waffle snacks and drinks.”
Once integrated into the South Korean forces, Jin will be among the army’s approximately 560,000 troops, according to the South Korean military’s website.
BTS have become global superstars since their debut in 2013, earning No. 1 singles in over 100 countries, over 46 million Twitter followers and being awarded Time magazine’s Artist of the Year in 2020.
They have also become an important part of South Korea’s economy – a 2019 study showed BTS was responsible for 0.3% of the country’s gross domestic product with $4.9 billion in revenue.
Critics say BTS is a one-of-a-kind phenomenon.
“BTS’s place in the scene is unique,” said music critic Yoonha Kim. “I think there is no need to say more. In fact, not only in the K-pop scene but looking at the whole history of Korean music, no such group existed and it will be difficult for another to emerge in the future.