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Calls grow to exempt BTS members from military service

By Jang Ki-hyun, UPI News Korea
BTS performs on New Year's Eve in Times Square in New York City. File Photo by Corey Sipkin/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/fb596bd7be3b6ffd35cba43a1dc1d241/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
BTS performs on New Year's Eve in Times Square in New York City. File Photo by Corey Sipkin/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- More South Korean lawmakers are expressing openness to the idea of exempting members of the K-pop group BTS from mandatory military service, or at least letting them postpone it.

Rep. Noh Woong-rae of the South Korea's ruling Democratic Party said Monday that decision makers should seriously consider a military service exemption for the seven-member boy band, which has brought the country considerable revenue and soft power.

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"The military obligation is a mission given to the people of Korea. But that does not mean everyone should carry a gun," Noh said at Democratic Party's leadership council.

"BTS topped the Billboard chart, an exploit whose ripple effect [produced] up to $1.4 billion. We cannot measure its value of promoting the Korean Wave and national prestige," he added.

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In late August, BTS became the first Korean act to top Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart with "Dynamite."

Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism estimated the feat would create an economic effect worth $1.43 billion and generate some 8,000 more jobs.

Last month, Rep. Jeon Yong-gi of the Democratic Party also put forth a revision that would enable artists recommended by the culture minister to delay their military service.

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Jeon noted that pop artists deserve the same rights as athletes, who can postpone their military duty after meeting qualifications.

All able-bodied Korean men ages 18 to 28 are required to serve in the military. The band's oldest member Jin, who was born in 1992, would have to enlist by the end of this year.

BTS's label, Big Hit Entertainment, recently said Jin's military conscription would be postponed until the end of 2021 because he is working on his master's degree.

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Professor Son Tae-gyu of Dankook University expects that the governing party will be able to revise the relevant law based on its absolute majority in the unicameral parliament.

"Personally, I am opposed to the idea of expanding exceptions in our conscription rule. But once the [Democratic Party] decides to do so, opposition parties would not do anything," Sohn said. "In particular, the [Democratic Party] will get political benefits because of the high popularity of BTS."

The party and its small allies hold about 180 seats in the 300-seat parliament.

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