On the side of the general public, some people also do not see the legitimacy of the reasons put forward why the members of the BTS boyband should be released from military service.
Recently the Military Manpower Administration has argued that the achievement of Bangtan Boys aka BTS is not a sufficient reason to release them from military service. There’s been a lot of talk about BTS’s enlistment into the military as a service to their country, as every able-bodied Korean man at the age of 30 legally expects. However, given the long list of accomplishments and impact that BTS has had both at home and abroad, there is a suggestion of exempting them from military service as they have greatly increased the prestige of their nation to the rest of the world.
After the huge success of “Dynamite” in 2020, which made the group the first South Korean artist to reach #1 on the Billboard HOT 100 chart in the US, lawmakers passed legislation to amend the country’s Military Service Act and allow some male K-pop idols to postpone their military service until the age of 30. The new law is similar to what applies to South Korea’s national athletes, where athletes who win medals at the Olympics or Asian Games are eligible for exemption from military service because their achievements are considered a contribution to elevating the country’s national prestige. Some classical and folk musicians may also be excluded if they have won certain international awards.
However, Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism Hwang Hee felt that K-pop idols who had also won several awards should also be released. But not everyone in government or in this country agrees with his way of thinking.
In a recent official cabinet meeting, Sung Il Jong, the politician who put forward the exemption bill, put forward the argument that BTS has received two major pop awards in the international music scene, namely the AMA and Billboard awards. Awards are won in the biggest music market and thus bring prestige to their country, and therefore this is something to consider.
However, Kim Yong Moo, who represents the Military Manpower Administration, refuted this argument by stating that the award cannot be used as a reason for an exception. The reason is that the awards are not awarded based on specific judging criteria but rather by fan votes or, in some cases, album sales. So, to him, there was a huge difference between the award and what was considered and used to grant military exemptions at this time. Basically, the official position of military personnel is that BTS’ awards don’t carry enough weight to grant them military exemptions.
Looking at what this military personnel position is, the first thing is that representatives of the Military Manpower Administration were very influential in the law and could see the bill failing to be passed and made into law. Even if the bill does pass and becomes law, if the military doesn’t agree, there could be other repercussions. For example, they can easily refuse the party concerned to enter South Korea. This is because Military Manpower Administration officials have a lot of influence when it comes to issuing visas. Yoo Seung-Joon’s case can help to understand this scenario.
Kim Yong Moo, is also the person in charge of social service, i.e. if someone is exempt from military service, then they are expected to do some social work as an alternative way to serve their country. On the side of the general public, some people also don’t see the legitimacy of the reasons put forward why BTS should be released from military service. For example, one reason given was that if the criteria had a global impact, then many other people had the right to seek exceptions too, and they gave the example of a family that owns a large company like Samsung. Samsung is one of the largest companies in the world, and it can be said that those who run it have a global impact and help improve the position of the nation.
In addition, some netizens think that the awards given as the reason for military discharge are just awards and charts made by private entities in foreign countries. They feel that popularity abroad cannot be used as a benchmark for exceptions. Other netizens talked about the fact that other Korean artists who gained international recognition and fame also served in the military, such as PSY who enlisted twice.
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