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BTS may be allowed to perform overseas during military service

By Jang Han-byeol & Kim Tae-gyu, UPI News Korea
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Fans pose for photos before the BTS concert at Seoul National Stadium on March 10. It was the K-pop group's first show for a local audience since 2019. File Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/dc8863c47f78126ec8b1b208d9eaea7d/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Fans pose for photos before the BTS concert at Seoul National Stadium on March 10. It was the K-pop group's first show for a local audience since 2019. File Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- South Korean boy band BTS may be able to perform publicly even while some of its members are serving in the military, according to the country's top military officers.

The comments were made Monday by Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup and Military Manpower Administration Commissioner Lee Ki-sik during a parliamentary session.

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"There could be ways to allow them to practice and perform at concerts internationally, even after they join the military," Lee Jong-sup told lawmakers. "That might even help to increase their popularity because people care about artists serving their military duty."

Lee Ki-sik said the conscription of members of BTS -- a global K-pop sensation -- is being reviewed within the framework of alternative services.

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All able-bodied South Korean men between ages 18 and 28 have to serve in the military for at least 18 months with exceptions that allow the postponement of duty to the age of 30.

The oldest BTS member, Jin, will turn 30 late this year, and other members are also approaching the age limit.

BTS announced in June the band's decision to suspend performing as a group to seek solo careers. Member Jung Ho-seok, better known as J-Hope, played a main stage at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago on Sunday.

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There have been debates locally on whether the South Korean government should let BTS members avoid active military duty, as it does athletes and classical musicians who win international awards.

According to a 2019 report, BTS adds $3.5 billion a year to the South Korean economy with its concert, album and music streaming sales. The group is also credited with increasing merchandise exports and linked to a spike in tourist visits.

In April, pollster Realmeter disclosed a survey in which 65.5% of the respondents in Korea agreed BTS should do alternative military service rather than active military duty.

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Related bills are pending in the unicameral parliament, but lawmakers have failed to reach an agreement.

"There is the fear that adding pop artists to the military service exemption could undermine the whole framework. Hence, we are considering various options," Lee said.

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