July 12 (UPI) -- Options for South Korean boy band BTS to postpone mandatory military service is in the country's "national interest," a senior military official said after a new amendment went into effect last month.
Jung Seok-hwan, head of Seoul's Military Manpower Administration, told local newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun that exceptions were made for "outstanding artists" who "increase the value of the national brand," referring to BTS members RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook.
Jung is disclosing the military's official position after an amendment to Korea's Military Service Act went into effect June 23.
The amendment allows South Korean men who have been recognized for their artistic or athletic achievements to defer their military service until age 30, according to Dong-A Ilbo.
After the amendment passed in February, the Korea Music Content Association said in April the bill is "unrealistic and unfair," JoongAng Daily reported. The law applies to all South Korean men, but KMCA has said no musicians other than BTS are actually eligible because of awards received.
The boy band was conferred the Order of Cultural Merit in 2018 for contributions to the global popularity of Korean culture and encouraging more people around the world to learn the Korean language.
Jung said Monday that the decision to select recipients of the Order of Cultural Merit, a government-conferred recognition, was important because it would "minimize the controversy over preferential treatment."
A local poll conducted in October of last year showed the public was evenly divided on the issue of military service postponement for BTS.
South Korean men are required to enlist by age 28. Jin, the oldest BTS member, can enlist by 2022 under the new amendment. Jungkook, born in 1997, can defer military service until 2027.