BTS performing their song Butter at the 2022 Grammy awards in April. They have been nominated twice .
The seven members of BTS – one of the world’s biggest bands – will do military service in their native South Korea, their agency has said, ending a long national debate over whether they should receive an exemption.
While many fans of the K-pop sensations were hoping the band members would be given special consideration due to their contribution to the South Korean economy and international prestige, the performers will each serve almost two years in the military.
Jin, the oldest member of the group, will be the first to swap his stage outfit for a uniform soon after he turns 30 in December, media reports said.
The six other members, born between 1993 and 1997, will follow suit, with the band expected to reform in about 2025, according to their management company, Big Hit Music.
Big Hit, part of BTS’s agency Hybe, said yesterday the band members were “moving forward with plans to fulfil their military service”, adding that “as each individual embarks on solo endeavours, it’s the perfect time, and the members of BTS are honoured to serve”.
“Jin will initiate the process as soon as his schedule for his solo release is concluded at the end of October,” Big Hit added in a statement.
“Other members of the group plan to carry out their military service based on their own individual plans.”
All able-bodied South Korean men under the age of 30 must serve in the military for between 18 and 21 months – a duty intended to maintain the country’s ability to defend against a possible attack by North Korea, with which it is technically still at war.
Some prominent South Koreans have received exemptions or have been allowed to perform an alternative public service, including Olympic and Asian Games medal winners and prize-winning classical musicians and dancers.
They include Seong-jin Cho, the first Korean pianist to win the International Chopin piano competition, and the Tottenham footballer Son Heung-min, a gold medallist at the 2018 Asian Games.
Some South Korean MPs had voiced support for an exemption, despite concerns that it would invite accusations of favouritism, not least among other young men who have no choice but to serve.
Refusing to complete military service is a crime in South Korea, and can lead to imprisonment and social stigma.
In June, BTS announced they were taking a break as a group to concentrate on solo careers.
The band reunited to perform a free concert on Saturday in Busan in support of the port city’s campaign to host the 2030 World Expo.
The award-winning group have sold more than 30m albums worldwide and picked up two Grammy nominations on their way to reaching the top of the US and UK charts.