|BTS's Jin Screenshot from Weverse
By Park Ji-won
At 30, Jin of K-pop sensation BTS will be the first member of the seven-strong group to begin his mandatory service in the South Korean armed forces on Dec. 13.
Fans have been asked by the band's label, BigHit Music, to "refrain from visiting" the ceremony marking Jin's entry to the armed forces ― normally attended by the enlisting person's family ― to avoid crowding.
All able-bodied South Korean men must undertake 18 months of military service between ages 18 and 35.
There has been a long-running debate about whether the septet could be exempted from conscription, in light of the band's global success and contributions to the entertainment industry and the national economy.
In November 2020, the South Korean National Assembly passed a law allowing those who have excelled in popular culture and arts and have a recommendation from the culture minister to delay the start of their service until the age of 30. With few exceptions, other South Korean men must enlist by 28.
Jin, whose full name is Kim Seok-jin, decided to defer no more and join the army. Here is what he may expect once he is in the service.
|BTS / Courtesy of BigHit Music
What lies immediately ahead?
Most of the recruits are likely to be younger than Jin. In 2021, about 84 percent of men undertaking their mandatory military service were aged 20 or 21.
The military has three branches ― the Army, Navy and Air Force. For the first five weeks, the enlistees will go through basic training. They will be deployed to a unit after that. Jin will do his basic training at Yeoncheon in northern Gyeonggi Province.
Which unit do celebrities go to and what will they do?
There used to be a special unit for celebrities, allowing them to perform for other enlisted soldiers, but the military got rid of it in 2013 after some celebrities were reportedly caught leaving base without permission to visit an illegal massage parlor.
The incident became a big scandal that implicated other celebrities, and charges were brought against them for unethical conduct outside military camps.
These days, celebrities usually apply to join military band units, whose singers, performers and sound engineers stage events for fellow members of the armed forces.
The Army also stages musicals. A military-themed musical series ― its most recent title being "Blue Helmet: A Song of Meisa" ― has a wide range of fans because the productions' cast lists bring together celebrities who do not normally perform on the same stage.
The country's defense ministry has said Jin is allowed to join national events or performances if he wants.
|Newly enlisted soldiers salute at the Korea Army Training Center in Nonsan, South Chungcheong Province, in this Jan. 1, 2018, file photo. Yonhap
What will happen to BTS? When do the other members enter the military?
In June, BTS announced its group activities would go on hiatus, but members would continue to pursue their solo careers and original content production. J-Hope released his first solo album in July, while Jin and RM released albums in October and December respectively.
HYBE, the entertainment company behind BTS, has said it is difficult to say when the seven members ― who must all complete their military service ― will reunite, but hopes it will be in 2025.
Many investors are worried that HYBE will lose its growth momentum, as BTS has been its biggest asset. But some analysts expect it to continue growing, citing upcoming debuts of new acts and Weverse, its strongly performing multimedia platform for chatting and shopping for idol-related content.
Lee Hye-in of financial services group Yuanta Securities Korea wrote in a report in December saying that HYBE plans to debut four idol groups in 2023. She also wrote that HYBE's revenue might rise because of the advancement of Weverse.