Just a day after BTS made Billboard history (for the nth time), the South Korean government made a little fuss. On December 1, the National Assembly changed a long-standing law regarding compulsory military service in order to provide a brief respite for the artists and performers who have raised the nation’s global reputation – including, of course, BTS.
The law previously required all male South Korean citizens to complete approximately two years of military service by the age of 30, meaning they had to enlist before the age of 28. 30, pushing back their registration deadline by two years. The change comes just in time to exempt the group’s oldest member, Kim Seok-jin (aka Jin), from having to enlist when he turns 28 on December 4. The moment also coincides with BTS setting a new record in the US music industry.
On November 30, BTS became the first group in history to top the Billboard Hot 100 charts with a song sung primarily in Korean: “Life Goes On,” the second top single on the band’s new album on the theme of the pandemic. Be. (The first was the English-language track “Dynamite,” which debuted at No. 1 in August.) The band also broke up a whirlwind of other records at the same time, including the fastest accumulation of three No.1 songs on the Hot 100 since the Bee Gees accomplished this feat in 1978.
Exemptions from Korean Mandate Military Service Act already existed for athletes, artists and other public figures, but these exemptions from active service still require that those who qualify for it complete a military internship. The new law allows eligible artists to postpone their conscription for another two years, effectively giving K-pop band members like Jin and many other idols a grace period before they need to enlist.
Korea’s military service requirement has long hung over the nation’s pop idol industry, with many successful groups seeing members enlist for their tour of duty at the height of their success. Groups with many members can afford to lose one or two to the project without losing momentum, but the requirement can be disruptive. Four members from the very popular group EXO, for example, had to register, and although they – with many other idols – could be taken out of service within a year or two, the timing is neither difficult nor quick, and the uncertainty of the release date means that planning a return tour is not exactly easy. (Unfortunately, the law doesn’t appear to be retroactive, so idols who are currently serving their sentences are unlikely to get a sudden reprieve.)
Media reports have presented the new legal exemption as specifically intended for BTS, but it’s probably more accurate to say that the change is a respite for Korea itself. From 2019, BTS reportedly contributed $ 4.7 billion to the national economy. The group’s enormous fandom shows its love for the group through highly organized mass consumer broadcasts, which aim to help the group beat more records, increase sales and consistently reach higher on the charts. This powerful fandom machine has been around for years, but it seemed to reach critical mass in 2020, propelling BTS to a steady string of above chart.
In a very unusual year for entertainment, BTS amassed a almost unreal set of achievements – this year alone, the group broke the record for the most viewed YouTube video in 24 hours, joined Taylor Swift as one of only two artists to debut simultaneously an album and a single at the top of the Billboard charts, and became the most listened to group of 2020 on Spotify. In Korea, BTS broke a 30-year record for most musical awards won in one year, literally put the group in a class of its own.
Much of that success comes from a single song. The commercial success of “Dynamite” alone generated an estimate. $ 1.4 billion in the Korean economy – enough money to create about 8,000 new jobs. When the group debuted with the No.1 song on the Hot 100 in August (before quickly repeating that feat two more times, that’s okay), Korean President Moon Jae-in released a statement. audience congratulating the group and thanking BTS. to spread hope during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The group’s Hot 100 achievement, Moon said, “is a splendid achievement that further reinforces the pride of K-pop.
It’s really unbelievable. It’s a splendid feat that further reinforces the pride of K-pop. The song ‘Dynamite’, which topped the list, is all the more meaningful as it was composed to convey a message of comfort and hope to people around the world struggling with COVID-19.
– Moon Jae-in (@ moonriver365) September 1, 2020
It was the international popularity of BTS, especially “Dynamite,” that ultimately prompted Korean lawmakers to introduce the bill, which essentially provides for an idol-like exemption in the military service law. In October, a member of the ruling party Noh Woong-rae pushed the legislation forward on behalf of the band, arguing that its members should be allowed to serve the nation in other ways to meet its service needs. And those who have argued in the past to change this law have frequently cited BTS in their arguments. “I think BTS members should also be granted the exemption,” speed skater Song Kyung-taek said told the New York Times in 2018 during the discussion of the project. “When South Koreans go abroad, we can mention BTS to explain where we’re from.