BTS, the biggest boy band in the world, is taking a time-out to serve in the military.
The group’s music label and management company, Big Hit, announced on Monday that all seven members (Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook) of the mega-popular K-pop band will be taking a hiatus as a group to join the South Korean military for national service.
“Since the creation of BTS over ten years ago, the band has risen to international success, broken records, and catapulted K-Pop into the global stratosphere,” Big Hit’s statement reads in part. “BIGHIT MUSIC has focused to the milestone moment when it would be possible to respect the needs of the country and for these healthy young men to serve with their countrymen, and that’s now.”
This confirmation ends years of debate over whether BTS members might be exempted from military duties as some sort of a reward for the immense pride and honor they have brought to their home country.
South Korea’s conscription system
Since South Korea is still technically at war with its nuclear-armed neighbor, North Korea, the former requires all able-bodied men to serve at least 18 months in the armed forces by age 28. But there are exemptions available for traditional and classical musicians and dancers, as well as Olympic medalists and other high-achieving sports stars.
These exemptions were the basis of some lawmakers who had previously suggested that BTS could be granted an exemption so they could keep performing. However, the statement from Big Hit said the musicians were content to carry out their duties.
Who will be the first BTS member to enter the military?
The first BTS member to enter the military will be the group’s oldest member: Kim Seok-jin, a.k.a. Jin. According to Big Hit, the 29-year-old plans to enlist as soon as his solo project is rolled out later this October.
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BTS had previously won a deferral. In recognition of BTS’ efforts in “enhancing Korea’s international image,” the country’s parliament passed a bill in 2020 allowing members of the band to delay their military duties until the age of 30.
When Jin turned 28 that year, the government offered him a two-year delay in entering the army, making the performer one of the first K-pop stars to be offered such a reprieve. While Jin had originally applied for his service start date to be delayed, he had since canceled that request, Big Hit said, noting that the remaining six members of the group ― the youngest of whom is 24 ― also plan on following through with their service.
When will BTS return as a group?
Though members of the band are expected to go on with their solo projects, the announcement said they won’t be back as a group until 2025.
“Both the company and the members of BTS are looking forward to reconvening as a group again around 2025 following their service commitment,” said Big Hit.
In discussing the band’s prospects last August, South Korea’s defense minister had suggested the group could still perform while being enlisted. “There would be a way to give them a chance to practice and perform together,” said Lee Jong-sup at the time.
BTS most recently performed at a free concert in Busan last October 15th in support of South Korea’s bid to host the World Expo 2030 in the southern port city.