Draft exemption for BTS: Public consensus needed, says S Korean Defence Minister nominee

KATHMANDU: Should the members of the immensely popular K-pop band BTS be exempt from mandatory military service? South Korea’s Defence Minister nominee Suh Wook says that public consensus is needed before such a decision is made.

According to The Korea Herald, Suh Wook said on September 14 that the ministry should consult the public before deciding whether to grant the BTS members exemptions from mandatory military service.

“The service should be carried out by all able-bodied men in an equitable manner,” the sitting Army chief had said in a written opinion submitted to the parliamentary defence committee set to open a hearing on September 16 on his credentials as defence chief, according to the Herald.

All able-bodied South Korean men must serve on active duty for about two years, but exemptions are occasionally granted to individuals with outstanding accomplishments such as classical musicians who have received awards at international competitions or athletes who have won Olympic medals or gold medals at the Asian Games. However, pop artistes are not eligible for exemption, states the Herald.

Recently there has been a call for K-pop artistes to be considered for exemptions — particularly for BTS, as the band is basking in unprecedented popularity in global markets as the first South Korean act to have made it to No 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with their first English single Dynamite.

In 2019, the South Korean defence ministry had said the seven-member band would not be granted exemption, and reaffirmed its policy of no exceptions for pop stars.