Korean president says exempting BTS from military service should be based on public opinion

Published June 23, 2022, 3:47 PM

by Jonathan Hicap

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said any government plan to exempt K-pop superstars BTS from military service should be based on the opinion of the public.

All Korean men are required by law to enlist in the military by age 28. Through an amendment of Korea’s Military Service Act, which took effect in June last year, BTS members were able to postpone their military service until age 30.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol (left) and BTS (Instagram, Big Hit Music)

There is a pending proposal in Korea’s National Assembly that will allow pop culture artists like BTS to be added to the arts and sports field that may be granted exemption from military service.

If the proposal fails to pass, Jin, BTS’ oldest member, must enlist in the military next year.

Yoon on June 23 declined to reveal his personal opinion about whether he is in favor of granting military service exemption to BTS.

“I don’t think the president should state his position first,” he said, according to Yonhap News.

He added, “Depending on how the people view it, it could proceed in accordance with the law, or if public opinion is such, the National Assembly could revise the relevant regulations. I don’t think it’s something I should comment on first.”

A survey done by Korean firm Realmeter in April showed 65.5 percent were in favor of BTS’ alternative service.

The survey was done on April 14 among 500 people aged 18 and above in South Korea. The results of the survey showed 65.5 percent (40.7 percent strongly in favor and 24.8 percent in favor) were in favor of granting military service exemption to BTS while 30.2 percent were not in favor, and 4.3 percent answered “I don’t know.”

Under the Korean law Military Service Act, “art and sports personnel” refers to “persons with special skills in the field of arts or sports who are assigned … and perform duties in the field of arts or sports to promote culture and enhance national prestige.” They are recommended for exemption by the minister of culture, sports and tourism.

“The period of mandatory service of art and sports personnel shall be two years and ten months, and they shall be deemed to have completed their service as social work personnel upon expiration of such period,” according to Article 33-8 of the law.

It added, “Art and sports personnel shall be under the direction and supervision of the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism regarding the development of special skills in the relevant fields and regarding their mandatory service. Art and sports personnel shall engage in voluntary activities by utilizing their special skills regarding arts and sports. In such cases, matters necessary for the subjects, period and implementation procedures of voluntary activities shall be prescribed by Presidential Decree.”