South Korea may conduct a public survey to determine whether to grant exemptions from mandatory military service to members of the K-pop boy band BTS.
The issue of active military service for the seven members of the team has been a hot topic in South Korea as the team’s oldest member, Jin, must be enlisted in December when he turns 30.
Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup told lawmakers that he had ordered officials to conduct a survey promptly. He said his ministry would also look at various other factors such as the economic effect of the BTS, the importance of military service, and general national interests.
His ministry later explained in a statement that Lee ordered officials to investigate the need for such a survey, rather than launch it immediately.
He said officials were asked to investigate details including which agency will be responsible for the survey, how long it will take, and who will be surveyed. The statement stated that, if conducted, it would be carried out by a third organization, and not by the ministry or related bodies, to ensure fairness.
The ministry said the results will be only one of many factors in determining the military exclusion of BTS members.
By law, all physically fit men in South Korea must complete 18-21 months of military service under a conscription system established to deal with threats from rival North Korea. But the country relieves athletes, musicians and artists who occupy the top places in international competitions because they are considered to have increased national prestige.
Some politicians and others are calling for the scope of the layoffs to be extended to K-pop stars such as BTS as it has greatly improved South Korea’s international image.
A draft must not delay consumption beyond the age of 30.
A private poll conducted earlier this year found around 60% of respondents in favor of a military exemption for BTS members. However, another private survey conducted in 2020 found that 46% supported the dismissal, while 48% opposed it.