K-Pop stars BTS must do military service, no exemptions South Korean government says - The Sauce
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K-Pop stars BTS must do military service, no exemptions South Korean government says

BTS K-pop band members must do military service. South Korean football stars have been exempted but culture ministry says the first member of the group must enlist next year.

They may be South Korea’s most successful cultural export and the first K-pop act to top the US album sales charts, but BTS must still perform military service, the government has said, defying calls from the band’s fans for their idols to be granted an exemption.

Almost all able-bodied South Korean men must start almost two years of military service by the time they are 28, although exceptions are made for classical musicians and athletes who win international competitions. They include the Tottenham striker Son Heung-min, who secured an exemption – along with his South Korea teammates after they beat Japan to win gold in the Asian Games football tournament last year.

K-pop stars, however, must take a break from their singing careers, the defence ministry said this week, despite speculation that new guidelines on conscription waivers could include BTS and other internationally successful artists.

Instead, the ministry has reduced the number of exemptions in response to an expected shortage of conscripts as South Korea continues to battle a low birth rate. “In the case of BTS, I personally wish I could allow exemptions for them under certain conditions,” the culture minister, Park Yang-woo, said this week. But he added that the government body that oversees conscription was “inclined to downsize the overall scope of exemptions”.

“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 institutionalise a waiver system,” Park said, according to the Yonhap news agency.

BTS’s seven members are in their 20s but the oldest, Jin, will have to enlist by the time he turns 28 at the end of next year.

According to The Guardian, BTS’s management has said that all of the band’s members would serve in the military without complaint.

South Korea, which is technically still at war with North Korea, does not look kindly on celebrities who attempt to wriggle out of military service.

Steve Yoo, also known as Yoo Seung-jun, was deported and banned from entering the South after he avoided conscription by becoming a naturalised US citizen in 2002, months before he was due to be drafted.

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