YEONCHEON, SOUTH KOREA (AP) – Jin, the oldest member of K-pop supergroup BTS, began his 18 months of mandatory military service at a frontline South Korean boot camp at Yeoncheon, a town near the tense border with North Korea yesterday, as fans gathered near the base to say goodbye to their star.
Six other younger BTS members will join the military in coming years one after another, meaning that the world’s biggest boy band must take a hiatus, likely for a few years. Their enlistments have prompted a fierce domestic debate over whether it’s time to revise the country’s conscription system to expand exemptions to include prominent entertainers like BTS, or not to provide such benefits to anyone.
With lawmakers squabbling at Parliament and surveys showing sharply split public opinions over offering exemptions to BTS members, their management agency said in October that all BTS members would perform their compulsory military duties.
Big Hit Music said that both the company and the members of BTS “are looking forward to reconvening as a group again around 2025 following their service commitment”.
A couple of dozen fans could be seen as a small turnout given Jin’s huge popularity.
But Jin and his management agency had earlier asked fans not to visit the site and notified them there wouldn’t be any special event involving the singer, to prevent any issue caused by crowding.
Authorities still mobilised 300 police officers, soldiers, emergency workers and others to maintain order and guard against any accidents, according to the army.