BTS star Jin begins his military service in South Korea
BTS star Jin begins his required South Korean military duty on Tuesday, the band’s most memorable part to enroll since a break declaration this year left fans crushed over the K-pop juggernaut’s unsure future.
The septet is widely regarded as the country’s greatest cultural phenomenon, selling out stadiums worldwide, dominating the charts, making billions, and establishing the Army, a worldwide fan base.
However, in South Korea, all able-bodied men are required to serve in the military for at least 18 months. Despite the years-long debate over whether BTS deserved an exemption, the band confirmed in October that all members will enlist.
The military announced that Jin, whose full name is Kim Seok-jin, will begin five weeks of training on Tuesday.
According to the Yonhap news agency, the star is likely to be assigned to a “frontline” unit near South Korea’s border with North Korea, with which it is technically at war.
Big Hit Music, BTS’s label, pleaded with fans not to attend the family-only entrance ceremony by saying, “We ask you to keep your heartwarming words of support and farewell in your hearts.”
When the group announced its hiatus in June, it shocked fans by citing exhaustion, pressure, and a desire to pursue solo careers. However, analysts claimed that the announcement was strategically timed due to mandatory military service.
When its seven members have completed their service, the group will reunite around 2025.
A South Korean fan who runs the Twitter account @5heterotopia told AFP, “For a while, it’s true that there were many fans who would spend days just crying.”
Dubai-based 20-year-old fan Nimah Mustafa added: “[Jin’s absence] will be like a huge … void for me.”
Pop stars are not exempt from duty in South Korea, but classical musicians and some elite athletes, like Olympic medalists, are.
However, a 2020 amendment to the conscription law that increased the enlistment age for some entertainers from 28 to 30 has already benefited BTS. On December 4, Jin, the band’s oldest member, turned 30.
Fans and K-pop watchers have been speculating ferociously about BTS’s future due to the group’s seismic changes in 2022: Will they struggle to reclaim their success or will they maintain their fame?
After serving in the military, some male K-pop stars have had trouble resuming their careers in a competitive industry where artists are easy to replace.
“For the K-pop industry, the retreat of BTS will be a big deal,” Lee Taek-gwang, a professor of cultural studies at Kyung Hee University (KHU), told. “During the absence, they could lose public interest, and the decline in popularity will damage their business. It would not be easy for the boyband to reunite.”
However, other experts have stated that the stars will be an exception to that trend, citing BTS’s enormous success.
According to Hankuk University of Foreign Studies expert Lee Ji-young, they “obtained another level of popularity, influence, and credibility.” so that other artists in a K-pop industry with a lot of competition won’t forget about them.
BTS have been widely credited with improving South Korea’s image and soft power, which is now considered a global cultural powerhouse, more than any diplomat or celebrity since their debut in 2013.
They have been invited to the United Nations and the White House to meet Joe Biden, the US president. Additionally, they serve as official representatives of the 2030 World Expo in Busan, South Korea.
BTS has been credited by the South Korean government with injecting billions of dollars into the economy. However, despite this success, a proposal to grant them service exemptions was never approved by parliament because it sparked too much controversy.
“In South Korea, the military service is the indicator of egalitarianism … [where] all men are equal,” Lee at KHU said, adding that it was a “necessary” symbol of citizenship.