Can you combine the sparkling life of a young music star with the rigors of military service? In South Korea, that could be the case, Defense Minister Lee Jong-Sup confirmed during a parliamentary session on Monday. members of boy band BTS, hugely successful worldwide in the K-Pop (Korean teen pop) genre, could also during the performance of Milli.
The debate over cutting military service for K-pop stars from two years to just three weeks is a matter of national concern in the Asian country, which recognizes the industry’s importance to its economy and image abroad. A group of Korean think tanks estimated in 2018 that BTS would generate economic profit of 56 trillion won ($43 billion) between 2014 and 2023.
The problem is evident in the band’s oldest member, Jin, who will turn 30 in 2023. K-pop idols are allowed to defer service until age 30, according to a 2019 revised draft law. But for Jin, the time of the barracks is still dangerously close. Submitting to the militia would force these gangs to take a long break in their hectic careers.
Military service in general is a highly contentious issue in South Korea, where all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 28 are required to do military service to defend themselves against neighboring North Korea, led by Kim Jong-Un, with whom a peace deal has never been signed and threatens to develop a nuclear arsenal. Right now, even show business people would have to take up arms to defend the country against hypothetical aggression. The dictator has also invoked it on the K-pop genre, which he blames for the danger he attributes to its cultural influence on the North Korean population.
Over the years, exceptions have been granted to some professional groups, allowing for a postponement or curtailment of service, and have included Olympic Games participants or Asian Games medalists, as well as musicians and classical dancers who win prizes at certain major competitions.
Parliament is currently debating a bill that would shorten military service for K-pop stars. Minister Lee Jong-Sup said the musicians could serve the national interest by allowing BTS to continue performing without affecting the group, which is already running out of human resources due to low birth rates. “Even if they join the military, if concerts are planned abroad, there might be a way to give them a chance to practice and perform together,” Lee said, “since many people hold artists who serve in the military in high esteem , this may help.” increase its popularity even further.
The seven-piece band announced a hiatus from their activities together in June, citing burnouts and intentions to pursue solo projects. In April, a spokesman for Big Hit, the band’s promoter, said some members were having a “difficult time” due to uncertainties surrounding the parliamentary debate and were awaiting a firm decision.
Since debuting in 2013, BTS has become a global sensation with its upbeat hits and social campaigns to empower youth. BTS became the first Asian band to win Artist of the Year at the American Music Awards last year and were welcomed by US President Joe Biden to the White House where they discussed hate crimes against Asians.
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