Music group questions fairness of new law allowing BTS to postpone military service

Published December 25, 2020, 7:06 AM

by Jonathan Hicap

BTS (Twitter)

The Korea Music Content Association (KMCA) has questioned the fairness of a recently promulgated law in South Korea that will allow outstanding pop culture artists like BTS to postpone their military service until age 30.

Last Dec. 22, the Korean government promulgated a law, called by Korean media as the “BTS Military Service Act,” to give pop culture artists the chance to delay their military enlistment if they are recipients of cultural medals and government awards and if they are recommended by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST). Under the law, all able-bodied men in Korea must start their military service by age 28 at the latest.

The KMCA is an association of companies such as record producers, distributors and entertainment agencies including Big Hit Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, YG Entertainment and SM Entertainment.

According to KMCA, other than BTS, there are no other pop culture artists that will qualify for the deferment of their military service due to stringent criteria.

“In order to get a recommendation for the Order of Cultural Merit, one has to have performed in the field for at least 15 years. But most K-pop artists start their careers in their mid- to late teens and would be over the age of 30 when they finally fulfill that 15-year requirement,” the KMCA said, Yonhap News reported.

In October 2018, BTS members were given the Hwagwan (Flower Crown) Order of Cultural Merit, the youngest recipients of the award, in recognition for their contribution to spreading hallyu, or Korean Wave, around the world,

The bill that became the revised military service law was specifically filed in September after BTS topped the Billboard Hot 100 with “Dynamite.”

The KMCA added that the average age of singers who were given Order of Cultural Merit from 2010 to 2020 was 67.7. Except for BTS, the youngest in the list was Psy, who received the award in 2012 when he was 35 for his megahit single “Gangnam Style,” and the oldest was Geum Sahyang, who got it also in 2012 at age 83.

The revised law will take effect after six months, or on June 23, 2021. and the different criteria and scope of the military service postponement benefit will be laid out in a presidential decree. The MCST and the Military Manpower Administration will discuss the criteria but so far the only qualification under consideration is a pop culture artist recommended by the MCST among recipients of cultural merits and awards.

“We will decide a detailed criteria for eligibility to postpone military service to minimize possible abuse of the law,” Korea’s Ministry of National Defense earlier said.

KMCA secretary general Choi Kwang-ho said, “(The association) is grateful that a goodwill policy was made to acknowledge K-pop’s achievement in building a national reputation. But we want to ask what meaning it has if nobody is eligible for the benefits.”