BTS breaks up as a band

BTS and the South Korean Military ServiceNot an exception for pop stars?

The pianist Seong-Jin Cho had two reasons to be happy in 2009. Back then, he not only won the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition - winning this renowned piano competition was also his ticket to being exempted from two years of military service in his home country. Every South Korean has to complete this service up to the age of 28 - except for athletes who win a gold medal at the Olympic Games or the Asian Games. Or just musicians and artists who achieve first place in an international competition. 178 athletes and 280 artists and musicians have been exempted from military service in the last ten years on the basis of this regulation. In the case of musicians, however, this rule only applies to the field of classical music - the South Korean military is no exception for pop musicians. Not even for the K-pop stars from BTS.

"This regulation is controversial in several respects ..."

Sung Un Gang, cultural scientist and lecturer in Korean history at the University of Bonn.

"Some say that these rules would only privilege certain artistic genres over others such as drama or K-pop. So here the very old separation between the so-called high and low art plays. And that is also a point that fans of BTS criticize and claim: What BTS has achieved is comparable to first place in the international piano competition, for example. "

A great service to the country

As the first Korean band to reach number 1 in the US charts, the record for the most streamed music video on YouTube within 24 hours - none of this will be of much use to BTS: As of now, the oldest member of the band has to start his military service by the end of 2021 , the other six will follow in the next few years. The various online petitions from fans or comments from politicians who argue that BTS have already done the country a great service with their worldwide success do nothing to change this. Many South Koreans feel that exceptions to conscription are unfair, says cultural scientist Sung Un Gang.

"It's a highly emotional topic. Hardly anyone enjoys doing military service. In the army, for example, there is no privacy, you share a large room with ten to even over a hundred other soldiers. At the same time, there is an absolute imperative of obedience. Unfortunately, it happens repeatedly to physical, mental and sexual abuse and bullying with fatal consequences. And yet there is a certain resentment among South Korean men towards those who do not do the military service. "

Perhaps that is why the members of BTS have already stated on the record several times that they will of course do their military service, this is ultimately a natural duty of every South Korean. Even if that could mean the end of BTS.

Most of them start their careers at 16, 17, 18. And only a handful of performers actually manage to be active up to - in quotation marks - the age of 28. For the bands whose members have been reasonably successful by then, military service is often an endurance test. Because there is very high competitive pressure within the K-Pop industry with new bands debuting almost every week. The labels produce younger boy bands every three to five years in order to minimize the possible gap and loss of profit. "

Careers as actors, DJs or solo artists

After completing their military service, many members of K-pop bands start careers as actors, DJs or solo artists. Only rarely do they continue as a band afterwards. And the members of BTS are already working solo or collaborating with other musicians.

"I think even if the members go into the army one by one, there won't be complete radio silence. But the fans want to see the entire cast on one stage at once."

And that could take a while. If the youngest member of the band waits until the age of 28 to do military service, then the first BTS concert with the original line-up would not be possible again until 2028.