At dusk on October 17, I lay in bed, tossing and turning constantly. I didn’t know if it was because of the annoying and nagging cold I was recovering from or my apartment cooler.
Knowing what I know now, I think my body was trying to wake me up for a reason.
“Information on the implementation of BTS military service and the plan for future activities”, their Tweeter Lily.
Translated into four different languages, the statement explains how the seven members plan to move forward with South Korean military conscription and are expected to reunite as a group once their service is complete – in 2025.
Although this law applies to all eligible males, athletes, classical and traditional musicians who have won national awards do not have to complete conscription.
Discussions of a potential exemption for BTS have been going on for the past two years, with their postponement beginning in 2020 after the passing of a “BTS law,” allowing K-pop stars to delay enlistment until later. at the age of 30, according to Billboard.
Essentially, rather than waiting for the government to make the exemption decision itself, the septet took matters into their own hands last weekend.
It shouldn’t have gone this far – the exception decision for BTS should mirror those made for athletes and musicians in the past, as they have done exceptional service to both their country and the world.
Jin, 29, will be the first to serve as soon as his solo album efforts are completed in late October, according to the official announcement.
Remaining members RM, SUGA, Jimin, V and Jungkook are expected to complete their solo music projects before doing the same – j-hope has already released his solo album “Jack in the Box” in July 2022.
A few days before the announcement, BTS held a free concert in Busan in support of South Korea’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo. Around 55,000 fans attended Asiad’s main stadium, according to Billboard.
Despite my obvious shock and a brief existential crisis, I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. South Korean law strictly stipulates that all able-bodied males must serve 18-21 months in the military – the Bangtan Boys are no exception.
But they should be.
As much as I can joke around and say how the band has metaphorically “served” over the past nine years, there is some truth to that statement.
Park Chan-Wook, head of cultural industry research at the Korea Institute of Culture and Tourism, spoke about the group’s economic impact in South Korea as a guest of a episode from the NPR “All Things Considered” podcast. NPR’s “The Indicator From Planet Money” host Stacey Vanek Smith also spoke on the podcast.
A Bank of Korea tool collected data, estimating overflowing sales due to BTS, according to Park.
“In total, BTS earns about $5 billion a year for South Korea. That’s about half a percent of the entire economy of the country,” Smith said.
Half a percent is objectively not much, but as boy bands, their contribution to South Korea’s GDP is remarkable.
I’m not trying to argue that the only reason BTS shouldn’t enlist is that the South Korean government might lose money; however, Fortune has reported the country is expected to lose billions by enlisting the idols.
Although they bring substantial benefits to the country, their impact goes far beyond album and ticket sales.
In September 2018, the group addressed the United Nations General Assembly due to its global significance. There, they helped UNICEF promote Unlimited generationan initiative to help young people create opportunities for entrepreneurship, employment and social impact.
That same year, BTS received the Order of Cultural Merit from then-president Moon Jae-in. This merit is only awarded to those who have “rendered outstanding meritorious services in the fields of culture and art in the interest of promoting national culture and national development”, according to the Korean Legislation Research Institute.
To date, they are the youngest recipients of the award.
A more recent example of their diplomacy would be their visit to the White House to speak with President Joe Biden about rising anti-Asian hatred, according to the Associated press.
With the examples provided above, one would think that South Korea would do everything in its power to shield them from enlistment and harness their positive global impact.
What is even more frustrating is that a draft exemption is possible, and it has already been done.
Top athletes have been excused from duty as long as they ‘enhance national prestige’ by winning medals at the quadrennial Asian Games or Olympics, according to a article by the New York Times.
Two examples include Hyun-jin Ryu and Choo Shin-soo, who played in American Major League Baseball.
Despite the fact that exemptions were granted before, the chances of him going to BTS are now non-existent.
The Korean Ministry of Defense is trying to extinguish distributing exemptions entirely, as they struggle to find enough numbers to fill their ranks.
In other words, they take everyone, even Jimin.
Last summer, BTS released a one-hour session video to celebrate their ninth anniversary – long before their official military announcement. In this conversation over dinner, the idols talked about their future as a group.
“We promise to come back one day even more mature than we are now,” said Jungkook, 25.
Personally, this statement not only reflects the immense growth they have experienced over nearly a decade, but it reinforces their position as realized cultural ambassadors. They are essentially a microcosm of South Korean culture that has had a massive impact on the world on an unforeseen scale.
Although I’ve only been a fan for a little over a year, the impact they’ve had on my life is unparalleled.
I really hope the best is “Yet To Come” in 2025.
(Visited 44 times, 44 visits today)