BTS Military Duty Debate Sparks Again After Gamers Are Granted Exemption

“I’m so f*cking done!”

South Korea’s announcement that eSports athletes can earn a military exemption by winning gold at the Asian Games has rekindled an old controversy — one that involves the global K-Pop titan, BTS.


In South Korea, any male who clinches a gold medal at the Asian Games is exempted from the usual 18-month mandatory military service. With eSports now being included as a medal event, top-tier players — like team captain Lee Sang Hyeok (also known as “Faker“) —have much at stake. Though these exemptions have traditionally been reserved for elite athletes and classical musicians, reflecting their role in promoting national prestige, they are also a point of contention.


To provide some context, Son Heung Min, a renowned footballer and Tottenham Hotspur striker, avoided the full military stint after the national football team secured a gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games.

| @SpursOfficial/Twitter

Yet, BTS, despite their colossal contribution to the country’s economy and K-Pop’s immense global popularity, were not considered for an exemption.

| @bts_bighit/Twitter

Members like Jin, J-Hope, and Suga have either enrolled or are soon to be in the military.

| Weverse

The debate was further stoked when, in a 2022 Gallup survey, around 33% of South Koreans expressed opposition to potential military exemptions for K-Pop artists, despite the intention to ensure uninterrupted progress for groups like BTS.

With eSports’ inaugural appearance at the Asian Games and given South Korea’s dominance in this field, discussions around these exemptions have surged once more. Although the national team’s coach, Kim Jeong Gyun, downplayed the debate emphasizing the players’ “sense of duty,” it remains an undeniable concern for young eSports athletes.

Professor Choi Eun Kyoung from Hanshin University pointed out that these exemptions are a significant motivation factor for eSports players.


However, reactions, especially from BTS fans, have been mixed.

| Twitter

While some lamented the perceived injustice towards BTS, others appreciated the eSports players’ dedication and emphasized that eSports’ recognition as a sport predates BTS’s global fame.

Some fans even alleged that if BTS were granted an exemption, they might not even accept it to avoid any potential “exploitation” by the government.

The debate might simmer down after the Asian Games, but the questions it raises about national service, recognition, and the value of modern cultural contributions will remain pivotal for years to come.

Source: France 24