Military service could be the reason behind BTS's announced hiatus

Military service could be the reason behind BTS’s announced hiatus

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The K-pop group BTS announced on Tuesday, June 14, a stop to rest and work on personal projects. But the obligatory military service, mandatory in South Korea, could be at the origin of this decision rather than an alleged exhaustion.

Nine years after its inception, the 50 million-selling Korean group surprised everyone by announcing that it was taking a break. The third in nine years of career. What if there was an unspoken reason behind BTS’s decision to take a break: compulsory military service? That’s what an expert says. The announcement of a temporary stop in the career of the K-pop group, whose members say “exhausted” and wanting to pursue a solo career has moved many fans, but specialists believe there could be a more strategic reason. Any South Korean under the age of 30 must complete two years of military service, in part because of the threat posed by North Korea.

The prospect of conscription is drawing ever closer for the members of BTS, 24, for Jungkook, 29, for Jin, who must enlist next year or risk jail time. “The question of military service was clearly present in the announcement”said Lee Moon-won, a K-pop culture commentator interviewed by AFP. Allowing the band members to focus on their own solo careers was “a logical decision”he adds, since the call to the flag of the seven boys will disrupt the composition of the group in the coming years.

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Other K-pop groups, such as Super Junior, have tried to continue performing and recording without their stars being held in the barracks. But BTS clearly doesn’t want to continue their music if the group isn’t complete, Lee Moon-won believes.

Compulsory military service, even for stars

Seoul grants exemptions from military service to some high-level athletes, such as Olympic medalists and classical music artists, but not to pop stars. The lack of an exemption for BTS, which would generate billions of dollars for the South Korean economy, has sparked a debate that has even led to a bill. But the text was not adopted by Parliament and BTS, faced with the proximity of the deadline, took the “sensible decision to end its activities”explains the K-pop specialist.

It is difficult to avoid military service unless you are declared unfit. Refusing to serve is a crime that can lead to imprisonment and social ostracism, but despite this, some South Koreans go so far as to gain weight or undergo unnecessary surgeries, such as tooth extraction, to escape the service. A 1990s pop star, Steve Yoo, gave up his South Korean citizenship to escape military service. But then his popularity plummeted and his career with her.

BTS has never opposed mobilization: “As a young South Korean, I think military service is a natural path. And as I have always said, I will heed my country’s call when it arrives.”said Jin, one of the seven members of the group, in 2020.

The need for a “creative renewal”

BTS members have already benefited from a reform that, in 2020, raised the recruitment age for some artists from 28 to 30 years old. A majority of South Koreans, 59 percent, say they support broader exemptions, but are strongly opposed by young people who have served in the military, according to local media. For BTS, who have been churning out music non-stop for nine years, creative exhaustion must have also played a role in their decision to take a break, Billboard K-pop columnist Jeff Benjamin told AFP.

Although the group has already announced breakups in the past, this one seems more “significant” because all BTS members will be working on new personal projects, he adds. The seven boys remain under contract to their label until 2026, which is “essential to keep them together”, stresses Mr. Benjamin. A seal whose price fell in the announcement of this break.

“If you have the freedom to try new things from a creative standpoint, you may be in a better position to work together.he believes. I’ve always said that BTS’s key to reaching out more widely has been their honesty and openness, and it continues…although this news seems more serious.”

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