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ARMYs discuss the criteria for BTS' military exemption as FINAL decision draws near

Members of the National Defence Committee of South Korea will reportedly arrive at a conclusion about BTS’ military exemption by the end of April
Fans of BTS discuss the tentative criteria for the boy group's military exemption based on their contributions to South Korea (@bts_bighit/Twitter)
Fans of BTS discuss the tentative criteria for the boy group's military exemption based on their contributions to South Korea (@bts_bighit/Twitter)

Despite the fact that the members of the boy group BTS have time and again stated that they do not wish to get a military exemption, there still seems to be an unending debate around the issue. We are now coasting through the year 2022, by the end of which BTS’ oldest member, Jin, will have to enlist in the military. While it is the norm for a K-pop idol to enlist in the military, the fact that Jin is a part of the BTS had made it a contentious issue. BTS is considered to be one of the biggest contributors to the nation’s economy and a reason why BTS members are being considered for military exemptions by virtue of their contributions to South Korea. The military exemption clause previously applied to atheletes with international medals and artists who have won in specific, government designated international contests.

It is a well-known fact that BTS’ global popularity has and still continues to contribute to South Korea’s economy and it is their slow rise to being the biggest boy band in the world that is facilitating the "Hallyu" aka Korean wave across the globe. Considering all this, Korean fans of the group as well as many Korean nationals argue that BTS should be exempted from military service due to their contribution to the country's economy. It has been estimated that in 2021, BTS approximately contributed a whopping $5 billion (6.15 trillion Korean Won) which is exceptional, to say the least.


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New criteria for military exemptions

In an article released on the Korean news portal, Pannchoa, a Naver article discussed the ongoing debate around BTS’ military enlistment. It stated that that Members of the National Defense Committee have released a set of criteria that is being discussed as part of BTS’ military exemption debate. While BTS’ label Big Hit Music (aka HYBE), as well as BTS’ oldest member, Jin, have both expressed that there is a lot of uncertainty around the decision around BTS’ military enlistment. In the Naver article, it has been reported that the National Defence Committee aims to arrive at a decision over the issue by the end of April. It was stated that the exemption criteria being considered would include BTS’ US Billboard, American Music Awards, and Grammy nominations over the years.

“BTS has led the country to become first-class country leading the world in popular music, and now it is the country’s turn to respond back to these people,” according to the Naver article. This announcement has led to many divided opinions amongst fans of K-pop where fans of groups other than BTS claim that a BTS-only exemption is not fair. Critics say BTS’ commercial success in the US, as well as the recognition the group has received internationally, should not determine whether or not they serve in the military of their own country. On the other hand, fans of the boy group feel that BTS’ contributions to South Korea's soft power cannot be discounted and should be viewed as a 'better use' of their services to the country.


'Cultural merit' and K-pop

Fans of other groups had originally claimed that Billboard awards, chart ratings like BTS’ Hot 100 achievements and their Grammy nominations, were all ‘paper awards’. This is why fans of BTS are calling the release of these criteria “karma” on fans of other K-pop acts who belittled BTS American achievement in the past. One fan said, “Kpoppies n their faves were sobbing, crying, n throwing up BEGGING the National Assembly to LOWER Their Original STANDARD from "MUST OWN CULTURAL MERITS" to this bar!!! Meanwhile most of Y'all are still struggling w inkigayo & Daesang.” Another fan joked, “Kpoppies when they realize their favs last chance just got scrapped off BBMA’s.”

One fan said, “The cultural merit award should be on this list first, but those big 3 companies really where throwing a tantrum because they know their groups can't archive it.” Another fan said, “My honest opinion about this is you probably shouldn't have an opinion on whether they should go or not if you're not a Korean person. it's hard to grasp, but the issue has little to do with kpop as a whole and is more about the SK itself, and national identity.” One more fan said, “I think in the future it will be easy for other groups to get BB and AMAs awards. BTS have already opened the door for that. With BTS huge success kpop will become more known in the nearer future. So it'll be easy for other groups to exempt too.”

Another fan said, “Everyone's talking about BTS' enlistment as if we don't all know deep down they were "unofficially" exempt when they got their diplomatic passport, visited the UN, gave a speech, performed PTD, helped the first lady and the president promote Korean culture .. just saying.” One more fan said, “I would have preferred better criteria honestly. They should have included Tourism, Diplomacy, Economic boost and then the cultural order of Merit. Because their impact goes beyond just BB and the charts.” One fan said, “The cultural merit award should be on this list first, but those big 3 companies really where throwing a tantrum because they know their groups can’t achieve it.”










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