South Korean pop stars BTS grabbed worldwide attention when they performed their hit single “Butter” at the 64th Grammy Awards ceremony on April 3, 2022, in Las Vegas, especially when band member V whispered something to Grammy winner Olivia Rodrigo as part of the setup for the performance.
While members of the BTS Army (what their rabid, mostly teenage online fans are called) are furious that BTS lost the Grammy for Best Pop Duo or Group Performance to Doja Cat and SZA, the group is likely more focused on a reminder from the Daily Mail that some of its members are staring down a military commitment in their home country.
Back in 2020, the South Korean national assembly passed a law that allowed members of the band to postpone their mandatory military service until age 30. That probably seemed like a sweet reprieve, but time is relentless. Now member Jin is set to turn 30 in December, and Suga will follow next March.
Gunn Kim, South Korea’s ambassador to Britain, tried to prepare the group’s fans for the future when he told The Sunday Times, “It is very much expected that young Korean men serve the country and those BTS members are role models for many young-generation Koreans. Most of our people expect that our members of BTS will fulfill their obligation as citizens of Korea. Eventually I think that will happen.”
Jin and Suga will be required to serve for at least 18 months, followed by J-Hope (now 28), RM (27), Jimin (26), V (26) and Jungkook (24). Once this cycle starts, the entire group may not be able to perform together for nearly a decade. Maybe the group’s representatives will be savvy enough to advise that all seven members do their service together and get the obligation taken care of as soon as possible.
Of course, anyone who’s entering the South Korean military has to accept the very real possibility of combat with North Korea, which claims to have test-fired a new long-range nuclear missile called the Hwasong-17. International observers have claimed that the test was actually the older Hwasong-15 but allow that the new missile could be ready soon.
However this plays out, BTS will be the biggest news in pop star military service since Pvt. Elvis Presley answered the U.S. Army’s call in 1958.