“In the case of BTS, I personally wish I could allow exemptions for them under certain standards, but the Military Manpower Administration and the Ministry of National Defense [in charge of conscription] are inclined to downsize the overall scope [of exemption],” Culture Minister Park Yang-woo said in Paris on Wednesday (Nov. 20) while attending the UNESCO Forum of Ministers of Culture, reports Yonhap.
All able-bodied South Korean men are drafted to serve in the country’s military for a period of around two years, due to the country’s ongoing tensions with North Korea, which it is technically still at war with since the halt of the Korean War in 1953. The eldest member of BTS, Jin, is expected to enter his service in the near future, as he will turn 28 years old in December 2020, the maximum age a person can fulfill his mandatory service. A government task force was formed to investigate whether artistic accolades, such as BTS’ historic rise and record-breaking, warrant an exemption similar to ones earned by athletes and classical artists who compete and perform exemplarily on global platforms.
“Unlike classical arts or sports, it is difficult to fix the criteria of the selection in the popular culture and arts fields, which makes it difficult to institutionalize [a waiver system],” said Park.
During the same meeting, Park also said that he plans to create a team of sorts meant to help perpetuate the growth of South Korean pop culture, aka the Korean wave or hallyu, internationally to help bolster other South Korean industries.
On Thursday (Nov. 21), the South Korean Military Manpower Administration also addressed the matter, according to the Korea Herald. “On the request that the exemption needs to be expanded to pop artists like BTS, which has raised national image, we decided not to waiver military service, considering the government position to enhance fairness and downsize the number of exemption due to manpower shortage.”