If the past few years have proven anything to us when it comes to the pop music industry, they’ve definitely proven this: With the skyrocketing popularity of the South Korean music machine known as K-Pop, the reach of the industry’s crown jewel, boy-band supergroup BTS, runs far and wide. And according to a Dec. 1, 2020 report by the New York Times, it looks like that reach has finally overlapped with the legal and military institutions of South Korea itself. And for one reason in particular, fans and followers of the band couldn’t be happier.
Per the Times, the sea change involving a stricture affecting the majority of the country’s male population — specifically, South Korea’s mandatory service law, which until recently required men in between the ages of 18 and 28 to enlist in the military and serve a period of 20 months — came just in time before the 28th birthday of one popular member of BTS specifically. South Korea is not unique when it comes to laws that require a contingent of its population to undergo mandatory military duty — countries ranging from Israel to Switzerland to Cuba also abide by statutes which have similar call-ups, per the BBC.
So, what was the ruling, and which member of BTS is most affected by it? And what does this mean for the future of BTS? Read on after the jump to find out.
BTS member Jin will get to stay in the band, thanks to this new law
As the New York Times reported in December 2020, South Korea’s National Assembly, the country’s legislature, passed a bill to revise the Military Service Act. Since 1957, this act has made it mandatory for male citizens, once they reach legal age, to serve in the military for a period of approximately 20 months. The bill, which first gained ground in September 2020, per the New York Times, after BTS made history as the first-ever K-pop group to reach the number one spot in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for their song “Dynamite,” which also marked the band’s first-ever solely English language release.
While the timing of the bill, which proposed to raise the maximum age requirement for mandatory military service to 30, was at the time definitively linked to BTS’ success with English-speaking audiences, it couldn’t come soon enough for one member in particular. The ages of band members Jin, Suga, RM, Jungkook, V, Jimin, and J-Hope range between 23 and 27 years old. And as NYT noted, the passing of the bill, which outlets like Rolling Stone quickly nicknamed the “BTS law,” came only days before Jin (real name Kim Seok-jin), the oldest member of the band, would celebrate his 28th birthday on Dec. 4, 2020.
But while Jin might not be entering into active military duty now, other K-pop idols haven’t been quite so lucky.
Jin isn't leaving BTS for military duty… at least for now
While the new law passed by South Korea’s National Assembly doesn’t entirely exempt Jin from military duty in the future (as it stands, the new law will defer his service for at least another two years, until he is 30), there’s still a chance that other measures might be taken within that span to allow Jin to continue to perform as a member of the K-pop supergroup BTS. That’s most likely contingent upon whether the band will continue to garner an equal or greater amount of success among global audiences than it already has.
But as the New York Times noted in their December 2020 coverage of the new South Korean military service measure, this hasn’t been the case for many a K-pop idol who found themselves in the same predicament as Jin. Despite the fact that the Korean pop music industry as a whole has raised the country’s profile — effectively “[promoting] culture and [enhancing] national prestige,” terms which according to South Korea’s Military Service Act allow for exemptions for high profile athletes and artists — which stars within Korea’s mainstream entertainment industry have, up until now, never been given consideration under those guidelines
Instead, K-pop idols in the past who have reached the maximum age for military service — like rapper G-Dragon from BIGBANG, have left to serve with legions of fans bidding them their best — hoping they will have a career to return to.
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