Could a military exemption for K-pop stars be on the books? One South Korean minister definitely thinks so.
Noh Hyeong-Ouk, minister of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, said at a parliamentary audit last Friday that a "special review" is needed to determine if boy bands such as BTS could possibly be exempt from the country's mandatory military service.
According to The Korea Times, the minister added that the review was needed, because "the military system should reflect the current times and the ministry needs to review the idea."
"We need to review the need for an open-door policy regarding special exceptions from military service in the K-pop industry, in order to provide motives for Korea's expansion as a cultural content powerhouse," he said, reports news site UPI.
This comes more than a month after a government military system reform body decided that K-pop idols would not be exempt from national duty.
All South Korean men between the ages of 18-28 must serve in the military as part of their national service, according to current laws. Under the existing system, only select fine artists — such as Western classical and Korean traditional music artists — and athletes who win any of Olympic medals or Asian Games gold medals can be exempt from military service.
But lawmakers have been calling for change to the system in recent times, not least because of the immense revenue-generating power of these super K-pop boy bands. For instance, the Hyundai Research Institute found that boy band BTS is worth about 4.1 trillion Korean won (approximately SG$5 billion) to the country's economy annually, not to mention the tourists they attract to South Korea every year who want to get a piece of the Hallyu magic.
Jin, the eldest member of BTS, turns 27 in December and is expected to make his enlistment for national duty soon.