Busan Mayor Suggests Alternative to Military Service – Billboard

Busan Mayor Suggests Alternative to Military Service – Billboard

For several years, the members of BTS have had the prospect of military service in the South Korean army in mind. But what if they could do another job that would serve the nation but not require them to disappear from our lives for the mandatory two-year period required of all able-bodied males between the ages of 18 and 28?

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According to Yonhap News Agency, Busan Mayor Park Heong-joon has suggested the 7 members of the group swap their military duties for an alternative appearance as PR ambassadors for his city’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo. The nation last month officially named the band as official PR ambassadors, leading the bid that Busan is battling Rome, Odessa and Riyadh for.

“When BTS is permitted alternate military service, its members will be entrusted with national duties as heavy as military service, and they will serve the nation in their unique capacity,” Park reportedly said, suggesting that an aggressive publicity push be included the largest boy band in the world could do so gives his city a competitive edge in the intense competition to host.

Busan’s bid theme for the event is “Transforming the World, Navigating to a Brighter Future,” and if successful, it would host dignitaries from around the world from May 1 to October 1. 31 2030. Military service requirements have hung over members of the group since its inception nearly a decade ago, no more than the oldest member, Jin, 29, in December when he turns 30, ahead of the mandatory age limit for enlistment stands.

While the country allows some top athletes and classical musicians to avoid mandatory military service, there is currently no similar exemption for pop artists. But back in May, South Korea’s Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Hwang Hee said during a press conference that the rule should be changed. “It’s time to create a system to integrate popular culture figures as artistic personnel,” Hee reportedly said. “The system has been sensibly operated to give those who have improved national status due to their excellent skills more chances to contribute to the country, and there is no reason why the field of popular arts culture should be excluded from it should be.”

Then, earlier this month, the country’s defense minister, Lee Jong-sup, said during a parliamentary session that the military could serve national interests without hurting the shrinking personnel pool due to low birth rates by allowing BTS to continue while on duty to perform. “Even if they join the military, if concerts abroad are scheduled, there would be a way to give them the opportunity to practice and perform together,” he said, according to a Portal report. “How many people appreciate it very much [artists serving] in the military, this can help increase their popularity even further.”

Back in 2018, the nation passed an overhaul to the Military Service Act (which some dubbed the “BTS Act”) that allowed K-pop stars to defer their military service until they were 30. The law allowed K-pop entertainers to request a reprieve if they received government medals for increasing South Korea’s cultural influence around the world. All seven members of BTS qualified after being awarded the country’s Hwagwan Order of Cultural Merit by the government at the 2018 Korean Popular Culture & Arts Awards.

The military service issue is controversial in South Korea. Attempts by entertainers like Steve Yoo and MC Mong to avoid military service have damaged their careers. The BTS members have stated that they are ready to serve. But the looming possibility of forced hiatus for the group was among the warning signs ahead of the band’s decision earlier this year to take a hiatus to pursue solo projects. South Korea’s parliament has since debated a bill that would cut military service for K-pop stars from around two years to three weeks.