Wiping tears from his eyes, the K-pop star said: ‘I wanted to tell you with my own words directly’
Taemin cried during the broadcast, titled ‘Thank you for 13 years’. “There is more than a month left, so I didn’t want to spend it already being sad. I wanted to tell you with my own words directly,” a translation says. “The album schedule hasn’t been confirmed yet, but I will be able to show one last brilliant performance and music.”
His agency, SM Entertainment, confirmed he would be enlisting on May 31, adding that he has been accepted onto the army’s military band. They refused to share either the location or time, per Taemin’s request to enlist in privacy.
K-pop idols have long had to swap their microphones for the military. Mandatory conscription, co-ordinated by the country’s Military Manpower Administration, says that all citizens have “the duty of national defense” against North Korea. In South Korea, all able-bodied males are required to fulfil military service from the age of 18, while women are exempt.
Exemptions from service had previously been given to award-winning athletes, classical musicians, and dancers, but not to K-pop acts. But in December 2020, the country’s parliament passed a bill (informally called the ‘BTS law’, and rumoured to have been passed for the benefit of Kim Seok-jin) allowing its biggest stars to defer until the age of 30.
Under the revised Military Service Act, artists who have received government medals for having “greatly enhanced the image of Korea both within the nation and throughout the world” can apply for deferment. SHINee had previously been granted awards at the Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards, the annual South Korean government-run awards ceremony.
In 2018, SHINee’s Onew, Key, and Minho enlisted in the army, putting the group out of action for some time, before Minho surprised the group at Taemin’s solo artist showcase immediately after being discharged from his service, showing up in his uniform.
This year, SHINee’s seventh album Don’t Call Me dropped after a two-year hiatus. Dazed interviewed the group about their long-running career and reputation as one of K-pop’s most inventive acts.
As well as a solo album dropping “in the second or third week of May”, Taemin is set to hold a paid online solo concert called ‘Beyond Live – Never Gonna Dance Again’ on May 2 before he bids farewell to his loyal fans.
As well as Taemin, SHINee’s Key and Onew are also working on solo projects due to drop in July and September, respectively.