K-pop superstars BTS will not be exempted from service in Korean military, official says

In this picture taken on January 15, 2019, South Korean boy band BTS, also known as the Bangtan Boys, pose on the red carpet at the 28th Seoul Music Awards in Seoul. - The K-pop phenomenon BTS is estimated to generate nearly 4 billion USD a year for the South Korean economy, but the boyband's seven members will still have to perform nearly two years of military service, in contrast to the likes of Tottenham Hotspurs striker Son Heung-min who had been granted a controversial exemption. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) / TO GO WITH AFP STORY SKOREA-DEFENCE-SOCIAL-ENTERTAINMENT,FOCUS BY KANG JIN-KYU (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)

K-pop superstars BTS will not be exempted from military service under the Korean government’s new guidelines on conscription waivers, according to a Yonhap News Agency report.

Since early this year, a government task force has been working to revamp the guidelines in an effort to make military conscription more fair, and the final results are expected to be announced this week.

Yonhap reports the Korean government has been facing calls to give BTS a waiver for military service — something that is often awarded to athletes and classical musicians. Supporters argue that BTS is promoting their country’s national image across the world.

Culture Minister Park Yang-woo told reporters Tuesday that his hands are tied.

“In the case of BTS, I personally wish I could allow exemptions for them under certain standards, but the Military Manpower Administration and the Ministry of National Defense (in charge of conscription) are inclined to downsize the overall scope (of exemption),” he said. “Unlike classical arts or sports, it is difficult to fix the criteria of the selection in the popular culture and arts fields, which makes it difficult to institutionalize (a waiver system),” the minister said.

In South Korea, all able-bodied young men are compelled to serve in the military, according to Yonhap. Their term of service typically lasts about two years.

South Korea has technically been at war with North Korea since the ceasefire that ended the Korean War. The ceasefire is not a peace treaty.

The oldest member of BTS, Jin, whose legal name is Kim Seok-jin, is required by the military service law to enlist in the armed forces by 2020, when he turns 28.

“So far, (TV) entertainers after age 25 have faced hefty restrictions in going abroad, but (the new guidelines) are moving toward removing the restrictions for those recommended by the culture minister,” Park told reporters.

Overall, the new guidelines will maintain the current military exemptions given to athletes and artists, but will require them to make bigger social contributions instead of the waiver, he added.

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