Does the BTS have to go to the military too? All Korean males must serve two years in the Korean military service. BTS, a famous male pop group in Korea, has recently been playing a large role in advertising K-pop, so there has been a hot ongoing debate on whether or not BTS should be exempt from military service. However, there are disagreements about whether the law should be expanded to include Korean pop artists. The Argus gathers various opinions on whether the current special cases on military service are appropriate or better applicable if they should be expanded.
Jee-yun: I think that Korea idols should not go to the army for two reasons. First of all, exempting idols from their military service can promote national prestige and their impact on Korea’s economy is huge. Also, they have an alternative service option where they can serve in their field of expertise.
Simon: Another thing is there is already a system in place for the exemption from military duty that applies to athletes and musicians with major accomplishments. Quoting the government, “the purpose of the exemption is to raise the national profile.” There is no one else that raises the national profile more than who affiliated with “The Korean Wave.”
Yuliana: Yes, there is already a system for certain professionals such as athletes, but this system is not widely accepted by the Korean population. The majority of the male citizens have a duty to serve and this is a sacrifice carved out of their lives. I acknowledge the benefit of idols not going to the military as they bring us a lot of tax money, but average citizens do not have the concept in their minds as such.
Seung-wook: I agree with Yuliana; I disagree with the statement that the military exemption should be expanded for Korean idols, for a few reasons. First, there is no obvious standard that can explain national prestige, as there are not any measures that can prove Korean idols have improved the cultural dignity of Korea. Moreover, Korean idols being exempt from the military is an idea that goes against fairness. Korea is the only country that is separated in the world, so the government is enforcing a conscription system. It would be unfair for idols not to enlist by reason that cultural or artistic ability is more outstanding than the abilities of ordinary people.
Simon: The system will be more fair, if it includes idols. There are already extraordinary people that can be excluded from the military conscription, like some pianists who won international competitions that do not have to go to the military, and then there are people who are better known all around the world that bring tons of money that still have to join the army. To raise this question, I think it is unfair not to include them.
Yuliana: I am trying to look at this problem from the perspective of a Korean citizen. First of all, how are you going to handle with the backlash of the people that are going to be mad about this? Although there may be a lot of financial benefits of idols not joining the military, the country always has to think about what the people really feel. Second, what is the standard? Is it monetary such as dollars? Or do idols have a medal just as athletes do in the Olympics? The only fair way is if there is a standard set for idols, but it cannot be for everyone who gets on Billboard. There has to be an exemption for idols that really accomplish truly great achievements for Korea.
Simon: Why not Billboard? Let’s say an artist who achieved number 1 on Billboard, then that is just BTS, no one else, right?
Jee-yun: Idols have to go to the military before their maximum age of 30, so the exempt will be a very small few, the very well-known worldwide.
Simon: Yeah, the 0.001 percent of people, just like the Olympics, which is, at the moment, a handful.
Yuliana: For Billboard, you can meet a good producer and make a great beat, and get one good single, and out of nowhere be compared with the athlete who was trained for years and years to get a gold medal.
Seung-wook: Also, raising moral is essential when it comes to military power. If there is a widespread belief that if someone does not have to participate in the military because of their artistic talent, our future soldiers can be demoralized, this can be a huge problem. The problem is not the number of people enlisted or not, it is a matter of fairness.
Seung-woo: As long as you set the right standard, I do not think people will be as demoralized as Seung-wook said, or as angry as Yuliana said. There are already people who do not complete military service or an alternative service as a public agent in Korea, and they are all around us. If we look at public agents, they say they are not capable of military service. Yes sometimes we feel discouraged, but if we set the right standards, they would not feel as demoralized.
Simon: Perhaps having a top 10 on Billboards, or getting a Grammy and an international award, or maybe by the number of albums sold.
Jee-yun: A Grammy, is the highest achievement for an artist. There are not that many people who have achieved something so large at such a young age, BTS is the only artist in Korea to have done so.
Simon: Also because of corruption issues, opinion-based exceptions are wrong; there has to be a quantifiable number that needs to be passed, that would make the system more fair.
Seung-woo: People will be more discouraged if other people do not join the military through illegitimate ways such as by corruption or trickery.
Whether the reader agrees or disagrees with the following statement of Korean idols’ military exemption, the readers can see that both opinions are convincing. Through this debate, whatever discussions may be held readers can realize that a different statement can be respected, as one debater can have various opinions.
By Jang Soo-hyun
Staff Reporter of Global & National Section