The question is whether to make the seven-member boy band serve in the military, away from their fans for two years?
South Korean lawmakers are debating whether to let the members of popular K-Pop band, BTS, defer their mandatory military service, considering they have done a substantial amount with regards to the promotion of the country’s image abroad.
The South Korean law demands every able-bodied man between the age of 18 and 28 to serve in the military for two years.
There are exceptions, however. Classical musicians and athletes, who have won medals in the Olympics, are exempt in the eyes of the government who say they help South Korea promote its soft power.
That said, the exemption does not apply to pop artists.
Now, a few politicians are saying that BTS’s seven members, who are aged between 23 and 29 years, must be allowed to postpone the mandatory service.
“BTS represents Korea’s leading soft power. The group is doing a better job than 1,000 diplomats combined,” The Korea Times quoted Yoon Sang-hyun, a lawmaker, as saying.
The development comes days after BTS became the first South Korean band to top the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with their catchy English-language song, “Dynamite”.
At present, all members except for the youngest, Jin, who is 23, are using their admissions in a virtual university as MBA students to circumvent the military enlistment.
The rules allow university students to delay military service until they are 29.
These days, Big Hit Entertainment, the company behind BTS, is in the process of preparing for an initial public offering, which will see it sell shares to outside investors.
BTS, which is considered one of the biggest boy bands in the world, has become a brand of its own with millions of die-hard fans across the globe.
Last year, Big Hit raked in revenues of $507 million and reported an operating profit of $85 million, mainly from sales of 3.7 million copies of BTS album Map of the Soul: Persona.
But some analysts are sceptical about Big Hit’s proposed share price, which values the company many times more than its peers.
The listing price will see its shares start trading at 76 times the expected earnings in 2020. That’s much more than other rival South Korean music agencies and even established manufacturing groups such as Samsung, according to the Financial Times.
What has left some analysts worried is the impact of coronavirus on revenue earned from concerts, many of which have been cancelled.
Big Hit’s profit was down 4 percent in the first half of this year to $42 million after concert cancellations.
Nevertheless, BTS has become a phenomenon – with the band now venturing into other markets such as movies and a mobile game, which carry the band’s name.
Despite their songs being mostly in the Korean language, the boy band has made a fan base that extends from Indonesia to the US. Just recently, BTS beat top American artists including Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift to score the Best Pop award at MTV Video Music Awards.
They have captivated a young audience everywhere, what with their unique dance routines and colourful fashion – they often wear purple, blue and punk hair.
Unlike the household pop names of yesteryear, which relied on mainstream media and music shows, BTS acquired their following through social media. The band members were among the first to use Twitter and share their daily lives publicly.
BTS and its fans have also been active politically with initiatives such as their backing of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US.
They are for the Generation Z what BackStreet Boys were for the millennials.