YEONCHEON, Republic of Korea — Jin, the eldest member of K-pop supergroup BTS, began his 18-month mandatory military duty on Tuesday at a frontline South Korean boot camp, as fans gathered near the base to bid their idol farewell.
Six additional younger BTS members will enlist in the military over the next three years, causing the world’s largest boy band to take an indefinite break. Their enlistments have sparked a heated local discussion over whether it is time to change the country’s conscription system to broaden exemptions to include popular performers such as BTS, or whether such advantages should be denied to all.
Their management agency announced in October that all BTS members would serve their obligatory military duty, despite parliamentary wrangling and polls revealing significantly divergent public sentiment about exemptions for BTS members. Big Hit Music stated that both the company and the members of BTS “look forward to reuniting as a group around 2025 following the completion of their military service.”
The media and fans await Jin’s entrance at a South Korean army boot camp in Yeoncheon, South Korea on December 13, 2022.
Jin, who turned 30 earlier this month, underwent boot camp in Yeoncheon, a city near the sensitive border with North Korea, along with other new conscript soldiers for five weeks of basic military training, according to the Defense Ministry. After training in rifle-shooting, grenade-throwing, and marching, he and other conscripts would be deployed to army units throughout the nation.
Near the camp, approximately 20 to 30 supporters, some carrying images of Jin, and scores of journalists gathered. But Jin did not meet them, since the vehicle transporting him entered the boot camp without releasing him.
Mandy Lee from Hong Kong stated before to Jin’s enrollment into the camp, “I’d like to see him enter the military and wish him the best of luck.”
“In reality, it is complicated. I want to feel sad. I want him to be happy,” Indonesian Angelina remarked. “Mixed emotions. He is required to serve his country.” Like many Indonesians, Angelina exclusively uses one name.
Given Jin’s immense fame, a few dozen fans may be viewed as a tiny turnout. In order to avert issues caused by congestion, Jin and his management agency had previously advised fans not to visit the spot and informed them there would be no special event involving the singer.
Outside of a South Korean army boot camp in Yeoncheon, South Korea, on December 13, 2022, fans hold up picture-adorned cards as they await the arrival of Jin.
On December 13, 2022, in Yeoncheon, a woman holds a little booklet while awaiting the arrival of Jin, the oldest member of the K-pop band BTS.
According to the army, authorities recruited 300 police officers, soldiers, emergency personnel, and others to maintain order and prevent accidents. As South Korea is still grieving from the 158-death Halloween crush in Seoul in October, strict safety measures were anticipated.
Jin, whose real name is Kim Seok-jin, posted on the online fan network Weverse hours before entering the camp, “It’s time for the curtain call.” Sunday, he shared a selfie of himself with a military buzzcut along with the caption “Ha ha ha. It is cuter than I anticipated.”
All able-bodied South Korean men are required by law to serve in the military for 18 to 21 months under a conscription system designed to counter North Korean threats. However, athletes, classical and traditional musicians, ballet dancers, and other dancers who have won top awards in specified competitions and improve national reputation are excluded from the rule. Even if K-pop stars and other entertainers achieve worldwide renown and win prestigious foreign prizes, they do not receive such perks.
On December 13, 2022, fans will perform near an army training center in Yeoncheon, South Korea, before BTS member Jin enters the military to serve.
Jung Duk-hyun, a pop culture observer, stated, “Despite the fact that BTS members have chosen to join the military, there are regrets.” “In comparison to individuals in the pure art sector or athletics, those in the pop culture sector face a little amount of obstacles and unfairness. This is likely to be a contentious issue, thus I wonder if it should be explored consistently.
In South Korea, where the conscription forces young men to postpone their academic or professional aspirations, exemptions or evasion of obligations are a highly contentious topic. Previously, Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup and the head of South Korea’s recruitment office, Lee Ki Sik, stated that it would be “ideal” for BTS members to serve in the military to maintain justice in the country’s military duty.
A retired lieutenant general who headed South Korea’s special forces, Chun In-bum, stated that the government must move to abolish any exemptions since the military’s diminishing recruitment pool is a “very severe” issue in light of the country’s declining fertility rate. He deemed a debate about BTS’s military duty “unnecessary” because it was not initiated by BTS members, who have demonstrated a willingness to perform their duties.
On December 13, 2022, a convoy of cars, one of which carries BTS member Jin, arrives at an army training center in Yeoncheon, South Korea.
BTS was founded in 2013 and has a legion of worldwide fans who refer to themselves as “Army.” RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook, who is the youngest at age 25, are the other members. BTS became the first K-pop act to top Billboard’s Hot 100 with “Dynamite,” the band’s first all-English single, which increased its appeal in the West. The group has performed in sold-out arenas across the globe and has even been invited to speak at United Nations sessions.
In October, Big Hit’s parent business, Hybe Corp., announced that each member of the band will focus on solo activities scheduled around their military service obligations. In October, Jin released the Coldplay-collaborative hit “The Astronaut.”
Jung, the critic, stated that such projects could provide BTS members with much-needed opportunity to develop individually after years of working together. Cha Woo-jin, a K-pop commentator, stated that it is uncertain whether BTS will have the same popularity when they reunite in a few years after completing their military service.
Lee, the defense minister, stated in August that serving BTS members will likely be permitted to continue practicing and accompany non-serving BTS members on overseas group tours.
Cha stated that BTS members’ enrollment will not significantly diminish K-global pop’s appeal since they “appear to represent K-pop but are not K-pop itself.” Chung concurred, stating that other K-pop groups, such as BLACKPINK, Stray Kids, and aespa, might achieve greater success.
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