SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — J-Hope, a member of K-pop sensation BTS, entered a training camp in South Korea on Tuesday to begin his compulsory 18-month military service, becoming the second member of the group to enlist in the country’s military.
There was a heated public debate in 2022 about whether to offer special exemptions from mandatory military service to BTS members, until the group’s management agency announced in October that all seven members would be performing their duties..
In December, Jin, 30 and the oldest member of BTS, became the first member of the group to enlist in the army After he canceled his request to postpone his enlistment.
Television footage from South Korea on Tuesday afternoon showed what they called a black pickup truck likely carrying J-Hope moving to the training camp in Wonju, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) east of Seoul. Hybe Corp., the parent company of BTS’ Big Hit Music agency, confirmed that the 29-year-old singer has entered the camp.
Dozens of fans showed up near the base after arriving via chartered buses wrapped with large photos of J-Hope and words of hope for his safe service. Authorities mobilized soldiers and police officers to maintain order, and there were no immediate reports of safety incidents. Big Hit Music has implored the fans, who call themselves the “army”, not to come to the site for safety reasons.
“I love you army,” J-Hope, whose real name is Jung Ho-seok, said in a message posted on online fan platform Weverse, along with photos of him with a military buzz cut.
Five more members of BTS – RM, Suga, Jimin, V and Jungkook – will join the South Korean army one by one in the coming years. This means that the biggest boy band in the world is expected to reunite as a group again in a few years.
In South Korea, all able-bodied men are required by law to perform 18-21 months of military service under a conscription system intended to deter aggression from rival North Korea.
The law grants special exemptions to athletes, classical and traditional musicians, ballet dancers, and others if they have won top prizes in certain competitions and are judged to have enhanced national prestige. K-pop stars and other artists are not subject to such privileges.
This caused intense internal debate about whether it was time to amend the law to expand exemptions to artists such as BTS members. Jin, who turned 30 in December, faced an imminent draft because the law forbids most South Korean men from delaying their services after they turn 30.
Lawmakers differed on the issue in the National Assembly, while a series of public polls showed sharply divided opinions. On potential service exemptions for BTS members. Defense Minister Lee Jong-sub said at the time that it would be “desirable” for the BTS members to carry out their duties to promote fairness in the country’s military service.
Exemptions or evasion of military duties is a very sensitive issue in South Korea, because conscription forces young men to put their studies or professional jobs on hold.
Founded in 2013, BTS expanded their popularity in the West with the 2020 megahit “Dynamite,” the group’s first English-language song that made BTS the first K-pop song to top Billboard’s Hot 100.
Hybe Corp. said in October that for now each member of the band will focus on individual activities scheduled around their military service plans.
Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.
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