BTS band members
BTS Announces Hiatus In Tearful Video: ‘I Feel Lost’ Photo by Jon Kopaloff/WireImage

South Korean officials are looking to conduct a survey to see if exemptions from mandatory military service can be granted to members of the K-Pop boyband BTS. Officials announced the plan on Wednesday as the topic of active military service for the seven members of the popular boyband has been a heated issue in South Korea. The band’s oldest member will be facing enlistment this December when he turns 30.

According to the Yakima Herald-Republic, Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup told officials that he requested an immediate implementation of the survey, while he and his ministry will explore other factors such as the boyband’s impact on the nation’s economy, the value of military service to one’s country, and the general impact this decision will have on the nation as a whole.

Lee’s comments stirred up some controversy, however, his ministry made some clarifications saying he apparently ordered lawmakers to scrutinize the necessity of such a survey rather than deploying it so abruptly. The contents of the order included an inquiry about agencies that would best handle the survey, the amount of time needed to conduct the survey, and who would be surveyed. The statement says that a third-party organization should conduct the survey, not by the ministry or associated authorities as this would ensure a fair inquiry. The ministry mentions that the survey will be one of many elements that will determine the military status of BTS.

According to South Korean law, all men in good health are required to serve a 12 to 18 months contract of military service. This conscription system was created to help stem threats from North Korea. However, the country does provide exemptions to persons who enhance the country’s national image and prestige, such as athletes, traditional and classical musicians, ballet, and other dancers who excel in their field and win top prizes in distinguished competitions.

However, the exempted must complete a three-week basic training program before being released from military service, as well as 544 hours of volunteer work with a 34-month service in the respected professional field. Some politicians and officials have called for extended coverage of exemptions for K-pop stars and groups such as BTS as they elevated the country’s international image. A private survey was conducted sometime this year, which shows that 60% of respondents were in favor of granting military exemptions to the boyband members. But a similar survey conducted in 2020 showed that 46% were in favor of the exemption while 48% were in opposition.

BTS - Jimin, Jungkook, RM, J-Hope, V, Jin, SUGA
Jimin, Jungkook, RM, J-Hope, V, Jin, and SUGA of the K-pop boy band BTS visit the "Today" Show at Rockefeller Plaza on February 21, 2020 in New York City. Cindy Ord/WireImage

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