K-pop boy band BTS is now facing accusations that their recent enrollment in a graduate program is their way of delaying their mandated military service.
The group’s agency, Big Hit Entertainment, recently announced that BTS members Jimin and V enrolled for a Master of Business Administration program with a specialization in advertising and media management at Hanyang Cyber University and is expected to start in September.
Other members of the group has been taking classes in the same program—Jin, since 2017, and RM, Suga and J-Hope, since March of last year.
The youngest member of the group, Jungkook, is the only one not taking the course, as he is still finishing his undergraduate degree at the Global Cyber University.
With their decision to enter the MBA program, BTS is now facing speculations that they are using the program to delay their military duty. K-pop artists have been known to use graduate school as an excuse to buy time.
Under Korean law, men over 18 are required to enlist in the military with at least 18 months of service, but enlistment can be delayed up to the age of 28 under specific circumstances, which include taking graduate studies.
But the agency has clarified that the group just really wanted to pursue graduate education.
“The members’ admission to graduate school is not due to their military service, but they all wanted to go to school because they have the will and desire to study,” said an official from Big Hit.
In 2018, fans of the boy band started a petition to exempt the group from military service, and the discussion was even brought to the attention of lawmakers several times. But the defense ministry has remained its stance on the issue: “Exempting pop culture artists from military service, even though they have contributed to the country’s reputation, is not in line with the government’s stance to uphold justice and fairness,” the ministry said last November.