BTS’s K-pop star Jin begins his military service in South Korea | BTS

BTS star Jin begins his mandatory South Korean military service on Tuesday, the first member of the group to enlist since the announcement of a hiatus this year has left fans heartbroken over the juggernaut’s uncertain future. K-pop.

The septet is widely regarded as the country’s biggest cultural phenomenon – selling out stadiums around the world and topping the charts, while raking in billions and building a global legion of fans known as the Army.

But all able-bodied men in South Korea must serve at least 18 months in the militaryand although there had been a years-long debate over whether BTS deserved an exemption, the group confirmed in October that all members would enlist.

Jin – whose full name is Kim Seok-jin – will begin five weeks of training on Tuesday, the military said.

Yonhap News Agency reported that the star is expected to be deployed to a “frontline” unit near the border with North Koreawith which South Korea technically remains at war.

“We ask that you keep your heartwarming words of support and farewell in your hearts,” BTS’ label Big Hit Music told fans last week, urging them to stay away from the ceremony. entrance reserved for families.

Fans were stunned in June when the band revealed they were taking a break, citing exhaustion and pressure as well as a desire to pursue a solo career. But analysts said the announcement was strategically timed due to mandatory military duty.

The group will reunite around 2025, when its seven members have completed their service.

“For a while, it’s true that there were a lot of fans who spent days crying,” a South Korean fan, who manages the Twitter account @5heterotopia, told AFP.

Nimah Mustafa, a 20-year-old fan in Dubai, added:[Jin’s absence] will be like a huge… emptiness for me.

South Korea exempts classical musicians and some elite athletes, such as Olympic medalists, from fees, but pop stars are not eligible.

However, BTS has already benefited from a 2020 revision to the conscription law which raised the enlistment deadline for certain artists from 28 to 30 years old. Jin, the oldest member of the group, turned 30 on December 4.

The seismic changes for BTS in 2022 have sparked feverish speculation among K-pop fans and watchers alike about what the future holds for the group: will they retain their fame or struggle to rekindle that success?

Some male K-pop stars have struggled to resume their careers after military service in a cutthroat industry where performers are easily replaceable.

“For the K-pop industry, BTS’ withdrawal will be a big problem,” Lee Taek-gwang, a professor of cultural studies at Kyung Hee University (KHU), told AFP. “During the absence, they might lose public interest, and the decline in popularity will hurt their business. It wouldn’t be easy for the boyband to get together.

However, other experts pointed to the massive success of BTS and said the stars would be an exception to this trend.

They “got another level of popularity, influence and credibility,” said Lee Ji-young, BTS expert and professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. “So they won’t be forgotten by other artists in a highly competitive K-pop industry.”

Since their debut in 2013, BTS have been widely credited with doing more than any diplomat or other celebrity to boost the image and soft power of South Korea, now considered a global cultural powerhouse.

They have been invited to speak at the UN and meet US President Joe Biden at the White House. They are also official ambassadors for World Expo 2030 in Busan, South Korea.

The South Korean government has credited BTS with bringing billions of dollars into the economy. But despite this success, a draft proposal to grant them exemptions from service proved too controversial and was never passed by parliament.

“In South Korea, military service is the indicator of egalitarianism… [where] all men are equal,” KHU’s Lee said, adding that it was a “necessary” symbol of citizenship.

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