01 August 2022
Members of the Korean popular music group BTS might still be able to perform while serving in the military, South Korea's defense minister said.
Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup spoke to members of the National Assembly on Monday. Lee said that, by letting BTS continue performing, the military could serve national interests. He said the move would not further affect the decreasing number of young men able to serve in the military because of low birth rates.
"Even if they join the military, there would be a way to give them a chance to practice and perform together if there are scheduled concerts abroad," Lee said.
He added, "As many people highly value (artists serving) in the military, that may help boost their popularity even more."
The minister made the comment as the country debates shortening the required military service for K-pop stars to three weeks from about two years.
The issue is becoming more urgent as the oldest member of the group, Jin, turns 30 next year. Under a 2019 revision of the law, internationally recognized K-pop stars are permitted to delay their service until age 30.
In South Korea, all healthy men aged 18 to 28 must fulfill their duties in the military as part of efforts to defend against North Korea.
Some groups have won exemptions that permit them to delay their service in the armed forces or serve for a shorter period. These include medal-winners at the Olympics or Asian Games and classical musicians and dancers who win top prizes at certain competitions. In 2019, exemptions were added for internationally recognized Korean pop music stars. K-pop stars are permitted to delay their service until the age of 30.
The National Assembly is now debating a bill that would shorten military service for K-pop stars. The new administration of President Yoon Suk-yeol is also considering exemptions for some engineers and researchers in the computer chip and other technology fields.
BTS' representative, Big Hit, did not answer a request for comment from the Reuters news agency.
In April, a Big Hit official said some members were having a "hard time" because of "uncertainties" over the debate, calling for a decision. The seven-member group announced in June that they would take a break from musical activities together to do individual projects.
Since its first performance in 2013, BTS has become a worldwide success with its music and social campaigns aimed at young people.
BTS became the first Asian musical group to win artist of the year at the American Music Awards last year. In May, they met U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House to discuss hate crimes targeting Asians.
A South Korean research group estimated in 2018 that BTS would support $43 billion in economic activity between 2014 and 2023.
I'm Jill Robbins.
Hai Do adapted this Reuters report for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
scheduled –adj. something that is planned for a certain time
concert –n. a musical performance
boost –v. to increase the force, power or amount of something
exemption –n. freedom from being required to do something that others are required to do