South Korea passes ‘BTS law,’ allowing K-pop megastars to postpone military service
South Korea’s National Assembly has passed a bill, dubbed the ‘BTS law’ in honor of the country’s biggest music act, which will allow the nation’s top stars to postpone their mandatory military service to the age of 30.
Before the Tuesday law change, all able-bodied South Korean men between 18 and 28 had to serve in the military for about 20 months. Now, established stars might expect special treatment.
The revision of the country’s Military Service Act has been linked to the emergence of Korean pop (or K-pop) bands onto the worldwide stage, a phenomenon that has boosted South Korea both culturally and economically.
However, it won’t be the number of records sold that would qualify artists for the service exemption. A special recommendation coming directly from the culture minister will be the determining factor.
Only those entertainers who have received government medals for spreading and elevating South Korean culture may apply for the exemption.
“Pop artists tend to make their highest achievements in their 20s but many of them had to pursue a graduate degree to delay their service,” said the bill’s co-author Jeon Yong-gi.
Originally legislators proposed the service reform after the country’s biggest band ‘BTS’ became the first ever South Korean band to top US charts with the song “Dynamite” this summer, tying the law to the group in the public consciousness.
Senior legislator Noh Woong-rae supported the special treatment for K-pop stars, saying in October: “It’s a sacred duty to defend our country, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to carry a weapon.”
The seven-member boy band seems to be the biggest beneficiary. The group’s oldest member, Jin, will be turning 28 this week – and both he and the rest of his bandmates were already awarded the requisite medals back in 2018.
Before the ‘BTS law’ South Korea already allowed some students to postpone their enlistment up to age 28. Exemptions are sometimes also granted to prominent classical musicians, and athletes who have won medals at the Olympics or in other high-profile championships.