Culture minister indicates support for offering BTS members alternative military service

In this file photo, BTS members pose for an online event on Sept. 2, 2020. [YONHAP]

Culture Minister Park Yang-woo said Wednesday that the government is considering delaying military conscription for K-pop artists who have contributed to promoting Korea’s prestige in the world, such as the global music phenomenon BTS.

“Promoting the country’s prestige means improving the value of Korea’s national brand,” Park, the minister of culture, sports and tourism, said during a National Assembly meeting. “According to recent surveys, the national consensus has been that pop culture artists should be included in the special military service programs.”

Culture Minister Park Yang-woo speaks during the National Assembly's audit on the ministry on Wednesday. [YONHAP]

Park was responding to a question from Rep. Jeon Yong-gi of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) about his view on offering alternative military service programs and chances to delay enlistment for pop stars. “I think we must consider this matter positively,” Park said.

Park said the public has increasingly demanded that alternative military service programs be expanded to pop artists. As of now, award-winning classical artists and athletes, engineers and technology researchers are offered to serve alternative programs instead of being drafted.

The minister also said he supports a bill sponsored by Jeon that would revise the Military Service Act to allow pop artists to delay their enlistments. The bill is currently pending before the National Defense Committee.

During the session, Jeon also asked Park whether the government would consider allowing e-sports players to delay their enlistments. Park said he would consider it.

In recent weeks, DP lawmakers have increasingly suggested that BTS members be allowed to delay their enlistments or serve in alternative programs.

“Military duty is sacred, but not everyone has to hold a rifle,” Rep. Noh Woong-rae, a member of the DP’s Supreme Council, said Monday.

Rep. Kim Du-kwan also said during a YTN interview on Wednesday that BTS deserves special treatment.

“If there is a national consensus, I think it is reasonable,” Kim said. “BTS’s impact is far larger than improving the status of Korea’s national brand by winning a gold medal in a sports game.”

But DP Chairman Lee Nak-yon on Wednesday morning urged members to proceed carefully with the campaign, expressing concern that it may raise concerns about fairness.

“We should be tight-lipped,” Lee said during the Supreme Council meeting. “The people are not comfortable that politicians keep talking about BTS’s military issue, and the members also do not want this.”