Enlistment: The Next Steps for BTS

Jade Lee '24

You might have heard their songs- Dynamite, Butter, Life Goes On, Permission to Dance, and many more- playing on the radio, or perhaps caught a 15 second excerpt of them while scrolling through social media. You may not even know the titles of these songs, but given how widespread these songs were, you probably know their melodies. 


All of these songs belong to a single music act: BTS. 


Taking multiple music charts by storm, BTS is a South Korean boy group that has grown to become one of the most successful music acts in the world. Although they had humble beginnings, they exploded in international popularity in the past few years, breaking records and dominating the music industry. Their fanbase, “ARMY” is well known for their dedication and international presence. [1]


However, eldest member Jin, who turned 30 last year, seems to have stirred mixed emotions among fans with his announcement to enlist. Since December 13, he has been serving in the South Korean military [2]. 


It wasn’t exactly out of the blue. A lot of their fans and even Korean citizens have been expecting his enlistment for years. 


South Korea, the country which BTS is based in, mandates that young, healthy adult men enlist in the military for a minimum of 18 months. Many may wonder why South Korea has such a requirement. The reason just happens to be the ongoing stalemate between South Korea and its upper neighbor, North Korea: a remnant of the Cold War. The war between them technically hasn’t come to an end despite the fact that there has been barely any military conflict recently, which is why the conscription is still in place [3]. Although most men complete it during either university or in their early 20’s, it’s common for Korean singers to push back their military service to their late 20’s.


And now, it’s Jin’s turn. 


Unlike other Korean music acts, however, many had speculated that the members of BTS would be exempted from the mandatory military service. It is possible for public figures to be exempted from service, such as Olympic medalists and prominent classical musicians, but many Korean music artists end up serving regardless [4]. 


Technically Jin was supposed to serve back in 2020, as most men are supposed to enlist by the time they turn 28. However, due to the Korean government creating a law that allowed a special exception for those who “excel in popular culture and art” to enlist by the age of 30, Jin was able to push back his enlistment another 2 years.


Given BTS’s widespread popularity has helped exponentially increase global attention to the South Korean entertainment industry, some fans and citizens alike had expected BTS members to be exempt completely from the military. It certainly was a surprise for many to see HYBE, BTS’s record label, announcing Jin’s enlistment. [2]


Jin is the first of the seven members of BTS to enlist. HYBE had already announced that the other six members would be following his footsteps. 


What will happen to BTS then? 


BTS as an act may be on hiatus for a while, but it doesn’t mean the other members will be inactive as they will be focusing on their solo projects. They just won’t be releasing new songs as a whole group. 


For now, with HYBE expecting BTS to reconvene in 2025, fans may have to wait a few years for all seven members of BTS to return. [3]


[1] https://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20221102000733




[3] https://www.npr.org/2022/10/17/1129429178/bts-announces-upcoming-korean-military-service


[4] https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/from-army-to-army/