October 6, 2020, 10.15 PM

SEOUL, KOMPAS.com – Lawmakers and fans are calling for South Korea’s megaband BTS to be granted alternatives or delays to the country’s mandatory military service.

Some of the East Asian country’s residents argue that the massively successful band is doing plenty for South Korea without wearing a soldier’s uniform.

South Korean law requires military service for all able-bodied men aged between 18 and 28 for about two years as part of the country's defenses against North Korea.

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BTS’ eldest band member, Jin, is 27 and will be required to sign up for military duty by the end of 2021 while the other six will reach the age of conscription over the next few years.

South Korea has granted exemptions for high-profile athletes such as Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min as well as classical musicians such as award-winning pianist Seong-Jin Cho, but to date, there have been none for K-pop stars.

"Not everyone has to take up a rifle to serve the country," Noh Woong-rae, a senior member of the ruling Democratic Party, told a party meeting on Monday in comments that received widespread media coverage.

Noh suggested BTS members could work as ambassadors in their overseas travels to promote a group of islets at the center of a territorial dispute with Japan.

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His comments follow a proposal by fellow party member Jeon Yong-gi last month to revise the law so that some K-pop stars could delay their service until the age of 30.

"For the sake of the fairness we are not talking about exempting them from their duty, but pop musicians and artists like BTS - their careers can blossom in their twenties," Jeon, who has the backing of a dozen lawmakers, told Reuters.

"We cannot let military duty block their way at the height of their careers," he said.

The public also appears to support special treatment for the band which has just become the first South Korean group to reach No.1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and has a massive global fan base.

Respondents to a Sept. 21 survey by domestic news website Kuki News showed 31.3 percent believed the band should not have to do their military service.

Another 28.6 percent supported a postponement while those supporting normal military service were around 30.5 percent.

Their label, Big Hit Entertainment, declined to comment on the matter, while individual members have previously said they are willing to complete their service.

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"Military service is the natural duty and when duty calls, I will respond any time," Jin told a news conference in February.

Big Hit, which plans to list on Oct. 15, has said in its IPO prospectus that military duty is a key risk for investors.

That has not stopped investors jumping on the offering, however, with orders from retail investors totaling some 58.4 trillion won ($50.3 billion), some 607 times the value of shares on offer, lead arranger NH Investment & Securities said on Tuesday. ($1 = 1,161.9500 won) (Writer: Ju-min Park, Minwoo Park, Cynthia Kim | Editor: Edwina Gibbs)

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-bts-big-hit-military-idUKKBN26R1A6 

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