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Second Member of K-Pop Group BTS Joins South Korean Army

South Korean men are required to complete 18 to 21 months of military service

A second member of the international K-pop boy band BTS has left the group to complete nationally required military service.

J-Hope enrolled in a military boot camp in South Korea on April 18, four months after fellow band member Jin began his compulsory service.

Under South Korean law, all able-bodied men are required to serve in the military for 18 to 21 months. Military service is one of the five primary duties of a South Korean citizen as defined by the nation’s constitution. South Korea is technically at war with North Korea, although an armistice agreement has been in effect since 1953, per Time

The performer’s obligation to complete the mandatory military service sparked outrage and debate among the group’s extensive fan base.

The law gives special exemptions to athletes, classical and traditional musicians, and ballet and other dancers if they have obtained top prizes in certain competitions and are assessed to have enhanced national prestige,” reports AP News. “K-pop stars and other entertainers aren’t subject to such privileges.”

The commissioner of the government’s Military Manpower Administration, Lee Ki Sik, told lawmakers in October of 2022 that ordering BTS to complete their military service requirement would ensure fairness, per NBC News.

At 30, Jin is the oldest member of BTS. His request to delay his military service was denied and he began his service in December of 2022. 

Hybe Corp, which owns BTS’ management agency, confirmed that J-Hope, 29, had entered a boot camp in Wonju, east of Seoul.

All five of the group’s remaining members – RM, Suga, Jimin, V and Jungkook – are expected to individually start their military service in the near future. There will be several years before the seven-member group returns to the stage together.

Evading the military service requirement comes with serious consequences. Conscientious objectors, including men from South Korea’s Jehovah’s Witness community, are required to work in the country’s prison system under strict rules for 36 months — twice as long as the military service requirement.

Steve Yoo, known also as Yoo Seung-jun, was a popular K-pop star in the 1990s. In order to avoid his 2002 summons to service, Yoo gave up his South Korean citizenship. He was later banned from entering the county and was denied a visa by the South Korean Consulate General in Los Angeles in 2015. The Seoul Administrative Court upheld the decision in April of 2022. 

“The plaintiff deceived the government agency (for military draft) to illegally leave the country and obtained (U.S.) citizenship,” the court said in its decision, per The Korea Times. “Given its unjust nature and methodology, the act constitutes a threat to the maintenance of order in South Korea and the public interest.”

The court clarified that Yoo can enter the country for short stays without a visa.

Formed in 2013, BTS made Billboard’s Hot 100 with “Dynamite” — their first all-English song — in 2020, rocketing the band to global popularity. In South  Korea, the members have starred in movies and are the faces of a number of brands. The band is estimated to have a collective net worth of $100 million.

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