It feels like it was only yesterday that K-pop titans BTS returned from their well-deserved “period of rest” earlier this year. Now, South Korea’s defence ministry has confirmed that the band, whose seven members are all in their 20s, must complete their mandatory military service for nearly two years, putting their careers on hiatus.
Mandatory conscription, co-ordinated by the country’s Military Manpower Administration, states that all citizens have “the duty of national defense” against North Korea. Men are required to serve and become eligible from age 18, while women are exempt, but can enlist. Exemptions from service are currently given to award-winning athletes, classical musicians and dancers, and artists, but not to actors or K-pop idols.
According to Lee Nam-woo, an official with the ministry of defense who spoke at a news conference last week, the public has spoken up in favour of exempting popular artists who have contributed to the country’s reputation, but these requests have been denied.
“Exempting pop culture artists from military service even though they have made a contribution to the country’s reputation is not in line with the government’s stance to uphold justice and fairness,” the ministry said.
Band member Jin, whose birth name is Kim Seok-jin, told CBS News back in April: “As a Korean, it’s natural… And someday when duty calls, we’ll be ready to respond and do our best.”
It has not been confirmed whether BTS will stagger their time in the military or all register at once.
Read our explainer on K-pop idols and military service here.