Members of the National Defense Committee of the South Korean National Assembly met with Commissioner Lee Ki Shik of the Military Manpower Administration on October 7 to discuss the issue of the boy band BTS’s required military service.
Sul Hoon, an assemblyman from the Democratic Part of Korea, spoke out in support of the BTS required service exemption on this day. The legislator enquired of Commissioner Lee Ki Shik: “Do you know The Beatles, Commissioner? Do you know that BTS is a band whose talent is compared to that of The Beatles?”
Sul Hoon went on, “Consider the big picture. What option will you pick? In my opinion, this matter needs to be carefully examined. We must really think about what would be best for the Republic of Korea. If we consider the tremendous amount of effect that BTS has had in Korea and around the world, we can see that this group has already contributed significantly more to South Korea’s influence than they would have via the roughly two years of necessary military service. There is no denying that BTS was the main factor in increasing global awareness of South Korea. That would be South Korea’s greatest loss if BTS were to split apart. It appears that two members will have to stop participating in BTS before the end of this year. That indicates the end of BTS as we know it. Will we remain seated and wait for that to occur?”
Assemblyman Han Ki Ho of the People Power Party, on the other side, spoke against granting BTS a required service exemption. Han Ki Ho made reference to rap lyrics composed by BTS member SUGA in his defense, saying, “They came up with these lyrics. When the time comes, we’ll join the military on our own, so all of you b******* who want to use our name to get a piece of our pie should simply shut up.”
Then Han Ki Ho asserted, “Because of all the debate surrounding this subject, [BTS] even created a song like this. So why is this subject even up for discussion in the first place? They claim they want to join the military on their own. Prolonged discussion of this topic may result in a significant conflict in our society, resulting in social divisions, the exercise of special privileges by some groups, and the extension of privileges to the already-privileged.”
Military Manpower Administration Commissioner Lee Ki Shik was also questioned for his opinion on the matter. He saw, “The number of volunteers who want to join the military is currently declining. Not to add, equity and justice are the most crucial aspects of conscription. In this regard, I think it will be advantageous for BTS to perform their required obligations.”
Additionally, the Commissioner said at this session, “We intend to reduce alternative service and public service jobs in response to the reduction in the number of young people who want to enlist for the military. For people involved in the performing arts and music, these responsibilities will also be reduced.”