Will BTS disband in the face of upcoming military service? Here’s what we know.
So far, the South Korean government has seemed unwilling to give BTS an exemption. Seoul’s defense ministry has suggested that exceptions may be made. But Defense Minister Suh Wook told local lawmakers that exceptions are not under consideration. However, a postponement is not being ruled out, either.
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.
The lengthy span of the recent Big Hit contract will allow for BTS to stay together if mandatory military service isn’t postponed. Each member will have to serve two years in the South Korean army. Jin can only postpone his mandatory service until the end of 2021 without an exemption.
South Koreans themselves are divided over whether or not the K-pop group should be required to serve. K-pop group 2PM was a six-member group before a member left to serve in 2017. That group will be whole again for the first time in 2021.