Will BTS disband in the face of upcoming military service? Here’s what we know.
Throughout 2020, the South Korean government seemed unwilling to give BTS a military deferment exemption. Seoul’s defense ministry suggested that exceptions may be made. But Defense Minister Suh Wook told local lawmakers that exceptions are not under consideration. However, lawmakers in December 2020 passed a measure to allow BTS to delay their mandatory military service.
Jin, the oldest member of the K-pop group, is required by law to enlist by the end of the year. All South Korean men between ages 18 and 28 must join the armed services as conscripts. Dodging the draft is considered a crime, though exemptions do exist for Olympic medalists and “artists who place at least second place in international contests.” (If the most popular K-pop group is an international contest, I’d argue BTS takes the top spot.)
South Korea has exceptions in place for cultural leaders, but they’re issued very rarely. In 2018, South Korea granted an exemption to Son Heung-min, a superstar soccer player.
So will BTS disband if the band doesn’t get their exemption? Unlikely. Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Park Jimin, V, RM, and Jungkook have all extended their contract with Big Hit Entertainment. All seven boys have resigned with the company for another seven-year contract – through 2026.
As part of the contract announcement, Big Hit Entertainment said it was focusing heavily on BTS.
The company created a team dedicated to “provide systematic support and investment” into the K-pop group and its career. You can bet part of that support is finding a way to get the band’s military enlistment postponed or exempted. It’s a cash machine at this point.
“It is our philosophy that we should cater the best to artists who are achieving an unprecedented global success,” Big Hit Entertainment says. BTS is arguably one of the biggest cultural forces to come out of South Korea. The group has led the charge in the K-pop genre becoming the dominant music force that it is today.
When will BTS disband?
Jin, the oldest member of BTS, turned 28 in December 2020. Suga celebrated his 28th birthday in March 2021, and J-Hope celebrated his in February 2021. That puts two members of BTS past due for their mandatory military service, with J-Hope nearing service age within a year. But lawmakers have allowed BTS to remain intact for another two years, until Jin turns 30 in December 2022.
The requirements for the deferment allow individuals who have acquired the Order of Cultural merit and permission from the minister of culture. BTS received the honor from South Korean President Moon Jae-in in 2018. But not everyone in South Korea is happy that BTS received a deferment. Musicians in South Korea can spend 15 years in the industry before becoming eligible.
Ignoring what happens with military deferment, we also know when the K-pop band’s contract ends. BTS signed their first contract in 2010 and later on renewed their contracts with Big Hit Entertainment in 2018 for another seven years. That means their contract renewal won’t be up again until December 2026 – after the military deferment exception.