A brave decision by BTS

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A brave decision by BTS

BTS ended the dispute over their military enrollment. The K-pop superstar’s agency announced all seven members would fulfill their military duty starting with the eldest, Jin, who could be called for duty within the year. They will be upholding their duties according to their will, not by force.

BTS has never asked for favoritism, and yet politicians repeated the controversy to ride on their fame. BTS was summoned to tag along with former president Moon Jae-in on his trip to the UN General Assembly and to show up at various political events. The Moon administration called for a military exemption for them as a reward. But it ended the term with much talk and no action.

The new Yoon Suk-yeol administration also leveraged on BTS. Despite their announcement for a hiatus, they were called up to hold a Busan concert to support the city’s bid for the 2030 World Expo. The mayor of Busan and leaders of the People Power Party also demanded military exemptions for BTS. The defense minister in August suggested he would refer to a public poll, but he withdrew the plan upon public protest.

It was BTS who put an end to the talks. Their decision was as matured as their musical achievements.

Under the current Conscription Act, athletes can be exempted from military duty if they win medals at the Olympics or Asian Games. In fine arts, exemptions can be made for awardees of 42 recognized competitions at home and abroad. The guidelines differed from time to time. For players at the 2002 World Cup, the exemption was allowed when the national team made the round of 16, and in the case of the World Baseball Classic Games in 2006, the waiver came when they made the semi-finals.

When the exemption provision was made in 1973, awareness of athletes and artists was low. Their contribution to the national dignity was also rare. There were also excess able men for conscription in the 1970s and 1980s. The only son over three generations was even exempted from conscription until 1993.

The rules must change according to the changes in the times. Conscription resources have been thinning due to the low birthrate, which led to the disbanding of the prized 27th Infantry Division. Exemptions as in the past are no longer possible. The reality where the winner of an international piano competition is exempted from military duty while a K-pop star topping Billboard Music Charts cannot is disputable as there are no convincing grounds. Exemption itself could seem unfair to general conscripts.

The government must address the issue with responsibility. Politicians must come up with reasonable outlines, not popular ones. Additional exemptions are not needed for the sacred military duty.
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