Day after new US chart record, BTS granted military call-up delay

South Korea's parliament revised the military conscription law to give entertainers such as BTS who have received a government medal for raising the national profile an extra two years to perform before enlistment. PHOTO: BTS OFFICIAL/FACEBOOK

SEOUL (AFP) - Trailblazing South Korean boyband BTS have become the first group to have a foreign-language song enter the United States Billboard chart at number one, as the parliament in Seoul cleared the way for them to delay compulsory military service.

Life Goes On, sung predominantly in Korean, topped the US Hot 100 in its debut week, Billboard said on Monday (Nov 30), the first foreign-language song to do so in the chart's 62-year history.

More good news arrived for the seven stars when South Korea's parliament on Tuesday revised the military conscription law to give entertainers who have received a government medal for raising the national profile an extra two years to perform before enlistment.

All seven BTS members were awarded the distinction in 2018.

South Korea requires all able-bodied men to serve in uniform to defend the country against the nuclear-armed North, usually for 18 months once they turn 28.

The South remains technically at war with the North and maintains a compulsory conscription system to defend itself against Pyongyang's 1.2 million-strong army.

The issue had been threatening to disrupt BTS' progress, with their oldest member Jin, 27, previously unable to delay his service beyond the end of 2021.

"Congratulations, Jin," one fan wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. "I can't tell you my happiness."

BTS - or Bangtan Sonyeondan, which translates as Bulletproof Boy Scouts - have become one of the biggest acts in the world since they launched seven years ago, and made a billionaire of their managing agency's founder.

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Their latest single is also the first mainly-Korean song ever to top the chart. The band's success marks the growing appeal of South Korea's popular culture in the US, after the subtitled Korean movie Parasite (2019) won four Oscar awards in February, including Best Picture and Best Director.

BTS' earlier track Dynamite debuted atop the chart in September but it was sung entirely in English, making it radio-friendly in Anglophone countries.

Dynamite is still in the chart at number 3 and they have another five tracks in the Top 100.

Life Goes On is the band's third number one in three months, after Dynamite and a BTS remix of Savage Love by Jawsh 685 and Jason Derulo.

The band had achieved the feat "more quickly than any act since The Beatles", Billboard said, after I Want To Hold Your Hand, She Loves You and Can't Buy Me Love all topped the chart in just over two months in 1964.

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