In a press conference last May 4, 2022, South Korean Culture Minister Hwang Lee proposed that renowned male pop-culture artists should be able to opt out of their two-year military service in exchange for alternative programs.
According to the current Military Service Act, all eligible South Korean men must serve in the military for two years before the age of 30. The act was amended last 2020 to raise the age limit to 30, as the previous age limit was 28. There would be possible exemptions and reduced terms of service for top classical musicians, folk music acts, and Olympic medal winners in the amended act.
As per Yonhap News Agency, Hwang said, “It’s time to create a system for incorporating popular culture-art figures as art personnel.”
Hwang suggests that K-pop groups such as BTS should also be included in the exemptions under the Military Service Act.
“The [exemption] system has been operated meaningfully to give those who have enhanced the national status based on their excellent skills more chances to contribute to the country, and there is no reason the popular art-culture field should be excluded from this,” he said. “I thought somebody should be a responsible voice at a time when there are conflicting pros and cons ahead of the enlistment of some of the BTS members.”
Hwang also said that the enlistment of the members could lead to a national and cultural loss.
“If the seven-person boy band has to suspend their activities due to the fulfillment of their military service obligations, it would be a national loss and a cultural loss for mankind,” he said.
The said proposal remains highly controversial, and members of the public continue to oppose the suggested solution. As per Variety, the proposal is opposed by a lot of men who have already done the mandatory military service, and it would most likely also be opposed by Korea’s defense ministry. The population of South Korea is aging and the country is lacking in able-bodied men that they might need in case the country needs to defend itself.
BTS member Jin is turning 30 this year and is scheduled to begin his military service by December 2022.
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