K-Pop Idols Off to the Military… What about BTS?

by Isabel Bang

Ever stanned a K-Pop group, and had to wait 2 years for a full comeback cause the oppas were gone to serve the country? 🥲 Technically, the Korean War isn’t over yet. Since the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, the two Koreas have put the conflict aside but never declared an end to the war. Hence why if you’re a male Korean citizen at the age between 18 to 28, you have to serve the mandatory military service unless you’re not in good health to do so. Hardly any exemptions are given, even for the world-famous K-Pop stars.

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Once you turn 18 you can enlist yourself for the military, and most Korean men tend to finish their services at a young age around 20 to 23. Those not in their best health, for example, if you have severely bad eyesight, diabetes, overweight, mental disorders, etc., can be exempted from active duties and can serve in police duties instead (or entirely exempted at time). Notable medal-winning athletes and musicians are often entirely exempted from the services to respect their deeds done for the country. Unfortunately however, there aren’t any official regulations that consider the exemption of K-Pop artists. 


The first-ever K-Pop artist to hold national debates for their exemption arrangements was BTS, who are argued to have shown “Outstanding Performance in Pop Culture and Arts.” With their Billboard records, it was rather acceptable to say that the group achieved a success that is as valuable as gold medals. Those who are for BTS’s military service exemption are claiming that the group had elevated the country’s reputation more than anyone, played an important role in raising awareness of the country, and immensely contributed to Korea's economic growth. After a long discussion, the government announced a partial amendment in the Military Service Acts in December 2020, a.k.a. the “BTS Law”. This amendment stated that those who have been recommended and medaled by the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism as one who elevated national prestige, can delay their enlistment till the age of 30. This included those in the “Pop Culture and Arts” sector, putting all BTS members applicable. Some may question whether two years delay is enough, but at least we can cherish the full group till 2022! Despite all the debate, all members of BTS clearly and happily stated that “when the country calls, we will gladly respond whenever,” showing their strong loyalty towards Korea.

So who’s back and who’s going? In the first half of 2021, many of the 2nd generation K-Pop stars completed their services and came back to the welcoming arms of their fans. This included Block B Taeil, 2PM Junho & Chan-Sung, B1A4 Baro and Jin-Young, EXO D.O, FT Island Lee Hong-Ki and more.

Those who bid their farewells early this year include (from left) Pentagon’s Hui, Infinite L, EXO Baekhyun, and most recently SHINee’s Taemin. In the next few months to come, our 1993 boys will have to pack their bags soon - WINNER MINO, Block B P.O, VIXX Ravi, and more. 

Hope everyone off to the military services are staying healthy and well, and be back in a blink of an eye before the fans shed their tears 🥲 For those who are back, hope the best to successfully restart your careers as the stars of K-Pop as you always were 💞

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