Not even the world’s biggest boy band will be exempt from military service, with all seven members of BTS ‘very much expected’ to serve in the South Korean army, a leading diplomat has said.
Gunn Kim, South Korea’s ambassador to Britain, shared his views on the K-pop phenomenon and their ‘obligation’ to their home country in the wake of growing tension between South Korea and her neighbour, North Korea, which just days ago claimed to have successfully test-fired a Hwasong-17 missile.
The world’s biggest boyband are ‘very much expected’ to serve in the South Korean army as soon as they each turn 30 and for a minimum of 18 months
Analysts say the long-range ballistic missile may be capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
But the weapon fired on 24 March is now believed to actually be a Hwasong-15, a smaller and less powerful missile first paraded five years ago, according to intelligence analysts in Seoul and Washington.
Nevertheless, South Korea remains in a tension-ridden situation with the North and places much importance on having a fighting force at the ready.
North Korea announced it had launched the Hwasong-17, which was first unveiled at a military parade in Pyongyang two years ago (pictured)
That includes mandatory conscription for all men aged 18 to 28 for a minimum of 18 months to add to the nation’s 555,000-strong active force and 3.1million reserve troops.
Speaking to The Sunday Times about BTS – which translated stands for ‘Bulletproof Boy Scouts’, Kim said: ‘It is very much expected that young Korean men serve the country and those BTS members are role models for many young-generation Koreans.’
He added: ‘Most of our people expect that our members of BTS will fulfill their obligation as citizens of Korea. Eventually I think that will happen.’
The boys have already received something of a small reprieve given their global status, which alongside millions of records sold includes more than 44 million followers on Twitter and a staggering nearly 62 million on Instagram.
North Korea claimed the missile fired recently is a Hwasong-17 – but analysts remain doubtful
In December 2020, South Korea’s national assembly passed the so-called BTS Law, which allowed members of the band to postpone their military service until they turn 30.
But Kim Seok-Jin, who goes by Jin and is the band’s oldest member, turns 30 in December, sparking speculation that he may well be soon swapping dance moves for military moves.
In time, he will be joined by Suga, who is currently 29, J-Hope, 28, RM, 27, Jimin, 26, V, 26, and Jungkook, 24.
BTS, pictured in 2020, have been allowed to delay their military service until they turn 30
They will join a long line of well-known names who have served time in the military over the decades.
Elvis Presley was famously filmed getting a buzzcut after he was drafted into the US army in 1958.
BTS could follow in the footsteps of other celebrities, including Elvis Presley, who served in the US army and is seen pictured in Germany on a tour of duty in 1959
Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon and his co-astronaut Buzz Aldrin, both served during the Korean War, as did Sir Michael Caine, James Garner and Johnny Cash.
Meanwhile Paul Newman served in the US Navy during the Second World War and Arnold Schwarzenegger did military service for the Austrian Army in 1965.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was required to sign up to the Austrian Army for one year aged 18
Jimi Hendrix also gained military experience before he achieved fame. In 1961, when he was caught riding in stolen cars in Seattle, the police gave him two options – go to jail or join the Army, with the pop sensation choosing the latter.
Following last week’s missile launch by North Korea, South Korea’s military responded with live-fire drills of its own missiles, underscoring a revival of tensions as diplomatic ties remains frozen.
Budding music idol Jimi Hendrix was given the choice of jail time or joining the army in 1961
Washington also imposed fresh sanctions against five entities and individuals located in Russia and North Korea over transferring sensitive items to the North’s missile program, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.
This latest test was North Korea’s 12th round of weapons launches this year and was thought to be the most provocative test since President Biden took office.