The issue of BTS and their national military service has long been a sensitive topic. While the boys themselves have clearly expressed a desire to serve the nation, the public and the government have been in a back and forth debate about a potential exemption. While some feel that BTS deserves an exemption similar to that of national athletes, others find it a show of bias.
On August 1, 2022, Lee Jong Sub, the Defense Minister of South Korea, spoke up about a potential special allowance for the boys. He announced that an allowance was being considered “for BTS to be given time to practice and perform overseas after they enlist“.
He continued to express that it could be a good way to solve the debate without disrupting principles such as fairness, equity, and reducing military resources. Furthermore, as the public has a positive outlook on celebrities who serve in the military, Lee Jong Sub argued that it could boost BTS’s popularity.
Lee Ki Shik, the head of the Military Manpower Administration also stressed that they are reviewing the matter carefully. The administration is “considering first and foremost, within the overall framework of alternative service.” Currently, while global feats such as Olympic medals are included in the criteria for exemption, awards of similar prestige such as the Billboard Awards and Grammy Awards are not yet included in the criteria. The military is carefully considering this as adding another pop culture artist may break the overall service framework.
The chairman of the National Defense Commission, Ahn Kyu Baek, also pointed out that obligations of defense cannot be converted directly into money, with this being a very capitalistic notion. He expressed his opposition to special allowances for BTS’s service given that “these are policies that keep going against fairness and polities that keep going back and forth,” and hence the matter of exemption for pop culture artists should be carefully revised.
Ultimately, no concrete policies regarding the matter have been decided by the meeting.