South Korea not lifting ban on giving military-stint exemptions to K-pop singers

South Korean striker Son Heung-min applauds supporters on the pitch after the match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium on Sept 1, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

It is debatable if South Korean football star Son Heung-min has more fans than any of the seven members of boy-band juggernaut BTS.

But while Son is exempt from the country's military service, fans of BTS and other top Korean boy groups are unlikely to see such a concession given to their idols any time soon.

According to Korea Times, officials, tasked to review the mandatory military stints, have decided not to grant favours to K-pop idols, with an official announcement set to be released later this month.

Currently, only winners of certain competitions - mostly Western classical and Korean traditional music events - and athletes who win any Olympic medal or Asian Games title can be ruled out of military service.

Son won his exemption when the Korean national football team clinched the Asian Games' gold medal last year.

In recent years, with the successful invasion of overseas markets by K-pop acts such as BTS and EXO, there have been calls by fans and even some politicians for the country to honour the breakthroughs with military-stint exemptions.

But even as the duty can be disruptive to the careers of the singers, some industry observers note that it can be contentious to come up with a list of qualifying criteria.

Which means that Jin, the oldest member of BTS at 26, is likely to be called up soon.

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