Petition filed to exempt BTS from military service, train them in Dokdo Island

Published September 20, 2020, 11:13 AM

by Jonathan Hicap

A petition has been filed to grant K-pop superstars BTS exemption from military service and for them to do their basic military training in the disputed Dokdo Island in South Korea.

Since BTS became the first Korean act to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart, there is a renewed interest in the group’s military service especially that Jin, the oldest member, is the first in line to enlist. All able-bodied Korean men are required to enlist by age 28.

Born in 1992, Jin is scheduled to start his military service this year but Big Hit Entertainment previously stated it believes that his enlistment will be postponed until the end of 2021. This is because he is enrolled in graduate school at Hanyang Cyber University since 2017 that will allow him to postpone the mandatory duty until age 29.

The Korean government and politicians are also working to help BTS postpone their military service until age 30 but ruled out military exemption.

Minister Park Yang-woo of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) said the revision of the law, the Military Service Act, will be completed by the end of the year as “we are currently finalizing details, and defining criteria that will allow BTS members to delay their enlistment until the age of 30,” according to the Korea Times.

The new petition, filed on the official website of Korean President Moon Jae-in, states, “Please provide BTS with the military service exemption (by completing the 3-4 weeks of the basic military training at Dokdo Security Police).”

It stated that Korea’s Military Service Act must be revised in accordance with the changing times and with BTS, they have become globally recognized artists.

The petition cited the case of K-pop boy band Super Junior. It said it took 10 years for the group to be complete again due to military service of the members. Former member Kangin was the first to enlist in 2010 and Kyuhyun was the last member to enlist and completed his duty in May 2019.

In addition to military exemption, the petition requests that BTS members should have their basic military training at the disputed Dokdo Island, which is under the territorial control of South Korea. Japan is making a claim to the island.

Dokdo is composed of Seodo and Dongdo, the two main islands, and 89 islets with a total area 187,554 sq. m. As of June 2020, Dokdo is home to Korean Kim Sin Yeol, 33 police personnel, three lighthouse managers and two Dokdo office staff, according to Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The island is being guarded by the Dokdo Security Police, which provides territorial security including arresting people who enter the island illegally.

According to the petition, if BTS members go to Dokdo for basic military training, the issue on the ongoing territorial dispute on Dokdo between Korea and Japan will become a global issue and this will be an opportunity for South Korea to correct misinformation about the island.

The petition also listed BTS’ major accomplishments including winning four awards at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards and YouTube and Billboard records.

As of writing, the petition has been signed and recommended by 1,451 people. When it reaches 200,000 signatures or endorsements in 30 days, the Korean government is obliged to answer the petition.

Under the current South Korea law, military service exemption is awarded to winners of 28 international music competitions, nine international dance contests and seven domestic competitions for a total of 42 contests, down from 48 last year.

For athletes, those who win gold, silver and bronze medals in the Olympics, and gold medals in the Asian Games are given military service exemption.

While they are exempted from military service, they are required to undergo basic military training for up to four weeks, and complete 544 hours of community service in a span of 34 months or two years and 10 months.