BTS’s decision to honor the South Korean military draft is impacting more than their fans


Divine Treasure | Wikimedia Commons

Regina Martinez

Acclaimed K-pop group BTS announced they will honor South Korea’s mandatory military service, ending speculations of their exemption as they go on a break.

BIGHIT MUSIC, the group’s management company, announced the group will follow the country’s conscription and the members will reconvene around 2025 following their respective service.

“After the phenomenal concert to support Busan’s bid for the World Expo 2030, and as each individual embarks on solo endeavors, it’s the perfect time and the members are honored to serve,” BIGHIT MUSIC said in a press release shared on Twitter.

Many fans have expressed their praise, criticism and disbelief at hearing the news.

“I’m so proud of them and will always be here forever,” a user tweeted. Others were more dejected at the news.  “The Korean national football team avoided military service because they won the Asian Cup and are considered national heroes but BTS who are infinitely more successful in their work don’t,” another user tweeted.

This raises the question of whether their popularity could exempt them from the draft. In some ways, it already has. South Korean law requires all men to enlist for at least two years between the ages of 18 to 28.

Meanwhile, BTS’s eldest member Kim Seokjin, better known as Jin, is turning 30 in December and is yet to serve. The band’s popularity caused legislators to revise a law, passed in 2020, that would effectively delay Jin’s conscription and allow other pop culture artists to postpone the draft. Under the “Order of Cultural Merit,” the South Korean president can award this motion to certain artists. BTS has been the only male K-pop artist to receive the award.

Furthermore, in contemplating these changes, the National Assembly’s Defense Committee even conducted a survey to see how South Korean people felt about drafting BTS. The results: 34.3% were opposed to exempting the band while 60.9% said they were in favor of it. The band’s popularity goes further than some shocked Twitter users as BTS has indirectly changed laws within their country.

Looking at the financial aspect of their fame, according to a 2018 report conducted by the Hyundai Research Institute in South Korea, their band alone is worth more than $3.6 billion to the country’s economy every year. This number equals what 26 mid-sized companies would make. The same study analyzed BTS’s continued popularity over the following decade and found that they would earn $41.8 trillion for the economy.

How did they amass such revenue? Well in 2017, one out of every 13 tourists traveled to South Korea because of their association with BTS. This means more sales for South Korean hotels, restaurants and tourist hotspots. On top of bringing in customers, BTS also exports billions in cosmetics, clothes and merchandise. This group of young men have not only been of great influence to South Korean pop culture but have also aided in improving their country’s infrastructure.

Yes, their years of military service won’t indefinitely end their careers, but one can’t deny the significant impacts it will have. Despite any future bureaucratic changes, BIGHIT music has made it clear that BTS will move forward with their decision and respect the country’s military policy.

While waiting for their return in 2025, fans will continue to support them through streaming, buying and wearing all things BTS.