See More on Facebook

Culture and society

No military exemption for BTS under new government proposal

Exemptions from mandatory military service to be reduced due to shortage of eligible population.


Written by

Updated: November 22, 2019

K-pop group BTS will not be exempted from military duty, the government said Thursday, announcing a new amendment to the military service law.

All able-bodied young Korean men are required to serve in the military for about two years, with limited exemptions offered for those with outstanding achievements in sports and arts that “raise the national profile,” under the Military Service Act.

There have been criticisms that the exemption system is unfair in excluding pop musicians, such as the members of BTS, which has topped the Billboard 200 albums chart more than once.

Idol Group BTS (Big Hit Entertainment)

Announcing a revision to the military service law, the government reiterated its position that BTS and other pop stars will still be subject to military service, as it seeks to reduce the exemption system due to a shortage of people eligible for national service.

“We came to review this system to reduce the number of exemptions in the first place, so we did not at all consider expanding exemptions,” Lee Nam-woo, chief of the Defense Ministry’s personnel welfare office, said in the joint briefing by a number of ministries on Thursday.

“We also believe that military duty will not hurt the talents of popular performers so critically that they cannot perform anymore.”

In the announcement, Lee said the government would reduce the quota for the exemption system and enforce stricter conditions for eligible sports and arts personnel.

Before the joint briefing, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon explained that it was “inevitable” to scale down the exemption system.

“There have been many controversies over the exemption system,” Prime Minister Lee said after a Cabinet meeting where the revision plan was passed.

“We could not overlook this problem any longer and we found it inevitable to reduce the exemption system.”

The controversies he cited concern whether the government can maintain the policy in light of a low birthrate that reduces the population eligible for military duty, the fairness of the system and whether the expert personnel who are placed on alternative duty are serving at appropriate places to produce the expected results.

The Military Service Act allows for special duties to enable qualified people to continue their careers while carrying out military service, such as researchers and specialist technicians.

Military service exemptions are given to qualified athletes and artists: who win a gold medal at the Asian Games or medals of any type at the Olympics, artists who win second place or higher at certain international arts competitions and top placers at an arts competition in South Korea.

Under the amendment, the government will incrementally reduce the number of people eligible for exemption — not including athletes and artists — from 2022 to 2026, by which time those receiving exemptions will be reduced by 20 percent, from the current 7,500 to 6,200.

The quota for athletes and artists will not be reduced, as only an average of about 45 receive exemptions annually, the government said. Instead, it will come up with stricter conditions by reducing the number of competitions or games that qualify for exemptions.

For athletes, stricter, more transparent rules will be applied in selecting players for national teams.

While the exemption has so far been granted only to those actually involved in a competition, all members of a winning team will be entitled to exemption under the revised law.

It is not unusual for Korean national teams to field members to take part in a winning game for even a minute, as that would qualify the player for exemption from military service.

“In some cases, people would joke about ‘1-minute play for military exemption,’ and the whole exemption system and the national team players would be ridiculed. We sought to prevent that,” a Defense Ministry official said.

The government formed a task force of related ministries for the revision of the Military Service Act in December last year. This is the first time that an agreement has been reached since discussions began in 2002, according to Lee.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: ANN’s Board member Mr Zaffar Abbas, Editor of Pakistan’s Dawn has won the 2019 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protest Journalists.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Culture and society

Internet healthcare serving homebound patients in China

Online consultations, pharmaceutical deliveries play vital role during outbreak. One recent rainy day, Wu Hong was waiting at the gate of her residential community in Wuhan, Hubei province. When a deliveryman with a bag of medicine came into sight, she was greatly relieved. Wu’s mother-in-law is a breast-cancer patient and needs to take medicine regularly. Wu’s father suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and inhalers have been in short supply. As the novel coronavirus epidemic grew more serious, Wu wasn’t permitted to take her family to the hospital for drug refills. She was left in a state of restless anxiety. On Feb 26, Wu and her husband saw a news segment on TV saying that the Wuhan government had enabled online reimbursement se


By China Daily
March 13, 2020

Culture and society

India’s Congress suffers setback after key leader defects to BJP

Move by Scindia and 22 legislators could trigger fall of Congress-led govt in central Madhya Pradesh state. The Congress has suffered a political setback following the resignation of Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia and 22 legislators in Madhya Pradesh state, deepening an existential crisis for a party that is struggling for political relevance in modern Indian politics. Mr Scindia, 49, an articulate leader, yesterday joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with legislators loyal to him expected to follow suit. The move could lead to the collapse of the Congress-led Madhya Pradesh government. That would give the BJP a chance to form the government in the Hindi heartland state, which is seen as key objective for


By The Straits Times
March 12, 2020

Culture and society

Chinese Red Cross teams aid Iran’s COVID-19 fight

Humanitarian group to help Iranians with containment measures that worked in China. Voices on the other end of the line cut in and out due to a poor phone connection as officials at the Red Cross Society of China’s headquarters in Beijing attempted to talk to staff members on the ground in Iran on Tuesday morning. As the signal stabilised, the latest developments in controlling the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic in Teheran streamed into a conference room packed with Red Cross managers. Zhou Xiaohang, head of a five-member team-four medics and a Farsi interpreter sent to assist with COVID-19 control in Iran-said Iranians are increasingly taking precautions such as wearing face masks and washing their hands more often.


By China Daily
March 11, 2020

Culture and society

Shortage of Masks, Handwash due to panic- buying: Leave some for everyone

Despite repeated calls by global and local health experts and warnings from government, panic-buying grips the country. Global health experts have warned against hoarding masks, handwash and sanitisers during the coronavirus outbreak as it could worsen the situation by depriving those who might need them. Despite this, panic-buying of these products in Dhaka has been triggered by news of the first confirmed coronavirus cases in the country. Across the capital, several pharmacies and superstores have been facing a shortage of masks, antiseptic liquids and sanitisers since Sunday afternoon. The demand for tissue papers has also almost doubled overnight, some retailers claimed. Many of the retail stores, super shops and pharmacies in Karwan Bazar, M


By Daily Star
March 10, 2020

Culture and society

MH17 trial in Malaysia begins today

It was reported that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile while flying over the conflict-hit eastern Ukraine. The trial will begin today. All eyes will be on the District Court of The Hague at the Schiphol Judicial Complex (JCS) in Badhoevedorp as the criminal proceeding against four men accused of shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 begins. It was reported that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile while flying over the conflict-hit eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board, comprising 43 Malaysians, 193 Dutch nationals and 27 Australians, were killed. Members of the Malaysian media here to cover the start of the trial were given a briefing by press secretary for the judge, Yolande Wijnnobel, on what to expect at the start of the much-awai


By The Star
March 9, 2020

Culture and society

OPINION: ‘Righteous’ women

So who is this ‘righteous’ woman that would never dare join Aurat Marchers? ‘TIS the season to be righteous, or so many prominent Pakistanis on TV and social media along with the religious right would have us believe. Pakistan suffers from hypocritical moral policing at the best of times — in homes, colleges and universities, places of religious worship, and the workplace — but the trigger for the current frenzy is the impending Aurat Marches in many cities of the country. Given that these marches only began three years ago, one can only marvel at how rapidly they have gotten under the proverbial skin of their highly agitated opponents. Enough has been said and written about the wider context of the marches and why they threaten the


By ANN Members
March 6, 2020