BTS could perform while doing military service

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BTSImage source, Getty Images

Military service may not prevent BTS from performing, the South Korean defence minister has said.

Normally, all men in the country must serve in the military between the ages of 18 and 28, for about 20 months.

In 2020, exceptions were made for BTS members to delay their service until they were 30.

With the oldest member of the K-pop band, Jin, turning 30 next year, the issue has come into focus in South Korea.

There is parliamentary debate in the country over shortening service to three weeks.

And speaking about BTS, minister Lee Jong-sup said: "There would be a way to give them a chance to practice and perform together."

Military service is controversial in South Korea, as men must fulfil their duties as part of efforts to defend against nuclear-armed neighbour North Korea.

Over the years, some men have won exemptions - either being allowed to put off service or do shorter service - including Olympics and Asian Games medal winners and classical musicians and dancers who win top prizes at certain competitions.

Tottenham footballer Son Heung-min completed his three-week mandatory military service in 2020 - and won an award for the best performance.

Son had earned an exemption from the mandatory 21-month military service after helping South Korea win the 2018 Asian Games.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Son Heung-min won a best performance prize among all trainees

BTS announced in June they were taking a break to grow and pursue solo projects for a while, but said they were not splitting for good.

At a parliamentary session, defence minister Lee Jong-sup said that by allowing BTS to continue performing, the military could serve national interests without affecting the shrinking pool of resources due to low birth rates.

"As many people highly value [artists serving] in the military, that may help boost their popularity even more," he said.

BTS have been credited as being one of the big influences in spreading Korean culture across the world, with the Oxford dictionary announcing last year it was adding 26 Korean words to its edition.

They were named as the world's best-selling artists of 2021 in a chart recently compiled by music industry body the IFPI.

The band became the first Asian band to win artist of the year at the American Music Awards last year, and met US President Joe Biden at the White House in May to discuss hate crimes targeting Asians.

BTS' representatives told Radio 1 Newsbeat they did not have a comment.

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