On Oct. 17, BIGHIT MUSIC, the company that global K-pop group BTS is signed under, announced that BTS is currently moving forward with plans to fulfill their military service.
In South Korea, military enlistment is mandatory for men and lasts at least 18 months. It is also typically required that it is completed before the age of 28. South Korea’s military enlistment is strict as a result of its conflict with North Korea.
However, due to BTS’ significance within the South Korean economy, these plans were delayed. According to the Hyundai Research Institute, the group makes over $3.5 billion annually for South Korea.
There has been a lot of debate about whether or not BTS should even be obligated to enroll in the military, due to their economic and cultural influence. South Korea does, in fact, have exemptions for people who have served their country in some other way by being an olympic athlete or a prestigious classical musician.
Some netizens (internet users) and politicians have argued that BTS could fall into this category as a result of their sacrifice and the countless hours they have put into their job. However, all seven members have chosen to fulfill this requirement regardless of what the South Korean government decides.
Although the internet is abuzz and conflicted, UM students seem to be generally in favor of this decision.
“It wouldn’t be fair,” sophomore political science major Sonia Amin said when asked about the possibility of BTS skipping conscription.
Junior finance major Brittany Knowles pointed out the social implications of the South Korean government granting the group an exception.
“It’s important they go so they don’t set a precedent of the upper class avoiding military service,” Knowles said.
BTS’ contribution to the country is mainly monetary — if they’re allowed to skip military service because they bring in money to the South Korean government, then what about the children of CEOs or wealthy actors? Should they be allowed to skip out on military service just because they donate money? What would become of a country that values equality and democracy in that case?
Other UM students feel that regardless of BTS’ global influence, it was always going to happen.
“It’s kind of expected since they’re required,” senior public relations major Dija Thomas said.
Despite this upcoming period of inactivity, fans are optimistic that it will not decrease the group’s momentum.
“In between, we will get so much solo content and everything, so we will stay busy and I think time will fly by,” sophomore microbiology and immunology major Meghana Talluri said.
As a K-pop fan myself, I agree. Before we know it, they’ll be back making the music that both they and their fans love. We also have to acknowledge that this could also be a beneficial learning experience for the group.
We’re not able to pause time or change the reality we live in, but we can live fiercely — after all, that’s what most of BTS’ music is about. They’re truly living up to those beliefs here with this decision. They are choosing to stand by their principles and have shown us that “Life Goes On.”
My world will keep turning even without a group like BTS, but that doesn’t mean I and other fans aren’t excited to see them return in 2025.