On October 7, members of the National Defense Committee of the National Assembly of South Korea met with Commissioner Lee Ki Shik of the Military Manpower Administration to discuss the matter of mandatory military service for boy group BTS.
On this day, assemblyman Sul Hoon of the Democratic Part of Korea spoke up in favor of granting BTS mandatory service exemption. The assemblyman asked Commissioner Lee Ki Shik, “Commissioner, do you know The Beatles? Do you know that there is a group called BTS, considered on an equivalent level to The Beatles?”
Sul Hoon continued, “Look at the bigger picture. What will you choose? It is my opinion that this issue be thoroughly reviewed. We need to actually consider what is best for the Republic of Korea. If we think about the sheer influence that BTS has had in Korea and across the globe, we can see that this group has already contributed much more in terms of influence for South Korea, more than what they would contribute through approximately two years of mandatory military service.
It cannot be denied that BTS played the #1 role in making South Korea as a nation known throughout the world today. If BTS were to be disbanded, that in itself is the greatest loss for South Korea. It seems that by the end of this year, two members will have to halt their BTS activities. That means no more BTS as we know it. Will we sit and watch while that happens?”
On the other hand, assemblyman Han Ki Ho of the People Power Party spoke against the granting of mandatory service exemption for BTS. In his argument, Han Ki Ho referenced rap lyrics written by BTS member SUGA, and said, “These are the lyrics they wrote. ‘We’ll go to the military on our own when the time comes, so all of you b******* who want to sell our name for a piece of our pie, you all just shut the f*** up’.”
Han Ki Ho then claimed, “Because there has been so much controversy over this matter, [BTS] even made a song like this. So why is there even a debate regarding this topic in the first place? They themselves say they want to serve in the military. Prolonging this whole issue can product a serious contradiction in our society, creating social divides, allowing certain groups to exercise special privileges, and giving more privileges to the already ‘have’s.”
Meanwhile, Commissioner Lee Ki Shik of the Military Manpower Administration was also asked to share his thoughts on the issue. He observed, “There is currently a decline in the number of volunteers who wish to serve in the military. Not to mention, the most important part of mandatory military service is equity and justice. In this regard, I believe that it will be desirable for BTS to carry out their mandatory duties.”
The Commissioner also stated during this session, “In response to the decline in the number of youths who wish to volunteer for the military, we plan to cut back alternative service and public service roles. These roles will also be cut back for figures in the fine arts and music.”