Apparently, being a global pop sensation doesn’t exempt anyone from mandatory military service in South Korea.
Yes, that means all seven members of K-pop phenom BTS are required to serve, according to a recent ruling from the defense ministry reported by Reuters. It also means the boy band will likely take an 18-month break from performing while its members carry out their civic duty.
“Exempting pop culture artists from military service even though they have made a contribution to the country’s reputation is not in line with the government’s stance to uphold justice and fairness,” the ministry said while announcing its decision on Thursday.
Currently at war with North Korea, South Korea requires men 18 or older to get a physical examination by the Military Manpower Administration, which can then lead to service. The BTS singers’ ages range from 22 to 26. Women are exempt.
Though the ministry does not typically make exceptions for pop stars, it has excused other high-profile figures, including decorated classical musicians and athletes, such as Olympians, in the past. According to Reuters, fewer than 45 citizens are exempted each year.
Not surprisingly, BTS Twitter has already weighed in on the ministry’s ruling, and fans actually seem to be taking it pretty well, for the most part insisting that their boys wouldn’t have requested special treatment in the first place.
“BTS—twt and (their management) NEVER asked for the boys to be exempted in military service,” a member of the ironically nicknamed BTS Army tweeted. “In as much as we as fans will be saddened by their temporary hiatus, we also understand that the boys like to experience the sense of normalcy by serving their nation in such capacity.”
Such is a relatively mild reaction from the fierce fandom, which has a reputation for fighting viciously for its heroes on the internet. For example, the “army” came out in full force Wednesday after Grammy nominations were announced, revealing that the band had been snubbed in all categories.
It’s unclear whether the ministry’s decision will affect BTS’ touring schedule.