Will S. Korea Let K-Pop Stars BTS Off the Hook from Required Military Service?

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Biden BTS
From left, Jin, accompanied by his K-pop supergroup BTS members Jungkook, Jimin, RM, J-Hope, and Suga, speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

When we last reported in April on the saga of international K-pop superstars BTS, members of the South Korean singing group had resigned themselves to fulfilling their required military service after several years of government-authorized postponements.

Things have changed since then. Whether it's concern for the outsize role K-pop plays in the country's economy or pressure from the BTS Army, the name for the group's rabid online fans, South Korean is reconsidering whether the five singers actually need to serve.

To review: The country passed a law back in 2020 that allowed BTS members to delay their service until age 30. Now, things are getting real because member Jin is set to turn 30 in December, and Suga will follow next March.

As the date rapidly approaches, the Associated Press reports that South Korea is now considering a public survey to determine how the country's citizens feel about requiring their homegrown superstars to enter the military.

Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup told lawmakers that he's ordered officials to quickly send out a survey and will then weigh the results against economic impact, the importance of military service and South Korea's national interest.

A recent private survey showed that 60% of citizens support a military exemption for BTS, so a formal poll seems likely to confirm that result. Will South Korea give the BTS men a free pass?

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BTS members were poised to be the biggest stars to enter the military since Pvt. Elvis Presley answered the U.S. Army's call of duty in 1958. Times have changed since then, and K-pop is big business. The group has been on a break this summer and now it seems likely the BTS fans won't have to wait long for the group to return.

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