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South Korean K-pop group BTS faces possible compulsory military service


The South Korean military appears intent on drafting members of K-pop supergroup BTS for mandatory military duties, as the public remains sharply divided over whether to grant them exemptions.

Lee Ki Sik, commissioner of the Military Personnel Administration, told lawmakers on Friday that it was “desirable” for BTS members to perform their military duties to ensure fairness in the country’s military service.

Earlier this week, Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup made nearly identical comments about BTS during a parliamentary committee meeting, and Culture Minister Park Bo Gyoon said his ministry would soon finalize its stance on the issue.

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Whether the group’s seven members should serve in the military is one of the hottest questions in South Korea, as its eldest member, Jin, is likely to enlist early this year. next after turning 30 in December.

According to South Korean law, all able-bodied men must complete 18 to 21 months of military service. But the law provides special exemptions for athletes, classical and traditional musicians, ballet dancers and others who have won top prizes in certain competitions that enhance national prestige.

Without a review of the law, the government can take steps to grant special exemptions. But past exemptions for people who have performed well in undesignated competitions have sparked a serious debate about the fairness of the system.

South Korean K-pop supergroup BTS delivers a speech on Asian hate crimes at the White House in Washington DC, May 31, 2022.
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The plan forcing young men to suspend their professional careers or studies, the avoidance of military duties or the creation of exemptions is a very sensitive issue.

In a recent survey, about 61% of respondents supported exemptions for artists such as BTS, while in another, about 54% said BTS members should serve in the military.

Several amendments to the conscription law that would pave the way for BTS members to be exempted were introduced in the National Assembly, but failed to pass, with lawmakers sharply divided on the issue.

Lee, the defense minister, said earlier that he had ordered officials to consider conducting a public inquiry to help determine whether to grant exemptions to BTS. But the Ministry of Defense later said it would not conduct such an investigation.

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In August, Lee said that if BTS members joined the military, they would likely be allowed to continue practicing and join other non-serving BTS members on overseas group tours.

Persons exempted from the project are discharged from the army after three weeks of basic training. They are also required to complete 544 hours of volunteer work and continue to serve in their professional fields for 34 months.

Fox Gt

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