If You’re in S Korea, You Have to Get Drafted— Whoever You Are!

June 13, 2023

Wheat rice, stir-fried fish cake with red pepper, white kimchi, stir-fried pork small intestine and sundae, sausage jjigae and Instant Black Bean Ramen—that was all that J-Hope, a member of BTS—the boy band from South Korea that has been making waves—who had recently joined the mandatory military service in his country got to eat for his frugal meal. The singer’s fans flooded social media with his pictures as a military man. However, ex-armymen from South Korea did not quite approve of the idea of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter getting snowed under with such pictures portraying a personal moment in the life of a defence personnel engaged in watching over, and protecting, the country’s borders.

But that is the way it is in South Korea! On October 17, 2022, it was announced that all seven members of BTS would be enlisting in the South Korean military. This is a mandatory requirement for all able-bodied Korean men between the ages of 18 and 28. The length of service is typically one and a half to two years. The ruling that the seven members of BTS, one of the world’s largest bands and the first K-pop band to receive a Grammy nomination, will serve the necessary time in South Korea’s military brought to an end a lengthy national debate over whether the group should be spared from service in October 2022.

After the announcement, there was a hue and cry over the band’s contribution to the country’s economy and how much foreign exchange they helped rake in. A 2018 report by the Hyundai Research Institute estimated that BTS contributed $3.6 billion to the South Korean economy annually. Four years on, their popularity has skyrocketed. According to a Forbes report, their YouTube channel, alone, can generate up to $2 million per month.

Given BTS’s influential position in the rise of Korean cultural products globally, it is understandable that their enlistment would create fear of loss of revenue for the country. The news of BTS’s conscription to the army was not a surprise to its fans, as the group had earlier stated that they would enlist when their time came. South Korea takes conscription very seriously and celebrities are rarely exempted. While this may seem unfair to some, it is a reflection of the country’s commitment to national defence.

The BTS ARMY, as the group’s fan base is known, has been supportive of the members’ decision to serve their country. They understand that this is a necessary part of being a South Korean citizen and they are proud of the group for fulfilling their duty.

When Jin, the oldest member of the K-pop group BTS, reached 30 in December 2022, he exchanged his stage attire for a uniform. The six other members—all born between 1993 and 1997—will do the same. The management firm for the group, Big Hit Music, anticipates a BTS reunion in or around 2025. A second member of BTS, 29-year-old J-Hope, whose real name is Jung Ho-seok, had enrolled for mandatory military service, a management official said on February 27, two months after the group’s eldest member began his service.

BTS, also known as Bangtan Boys or Beyond the Scene, is a South Korean boy band formed in 2010 and debuted in 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment. The septet of Jin, J-Hope, Suga, Jimin, RM, V and Jungkook collaborates in writing and producing most of their own stuff. Their musical style has evolved to incorporate a wide range of genres, including hip hop, pop, EDM, R&B and rock. BTS’s lyrics often focus on the themes of youth, mental health and social issues.

BTS has achieved critical acclaim and commercial success globally. They have won numerous awards, including six American Music Awards, two Billboard Music Awards and a Grammy Award nomination. In 2018, they were named the Top Social Artist by Billboard for the third consecutive year. They have also sold over 20 million albums worldwide, making them one of the best-selling music artistes of all time.

BTS is known for their energetic live performances, their elaborate music videos, and their social media presence. They have a large and dedicated fan base, known as ARMY, which has helped them achieve their success. BTS is a global phenomenon that has broken down barriers and brought people together from all over the world. They are an inspiration to their fans and continue to make history with their music and their message.




By Girish Linganna
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