South Korean lawmaker discusses military exemption for K-pop boy band BTS

K-pop act BTS is currently one of the most internationally successful K-pop boy bands in history. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - South Korean lawmaker Ha Tae-kyung has criticised the current military exemption law, perhaps giving reason to hope that popular K-pop boy band BTS can live out their careers with no disruption.

All able-bodied men in South Korea are conscripted into the military for around two years. Exemptions can be granted, however, to those who rank atop certain international competitions designated by the government.

Past examples of exemptions include Olympic medallist athletes such as the 2012 Olympic football team, who won the bronze medal at the Games and Lee Yong-dae, who won the 2008 Olympic gold medal in badminton.

"The list of the designated international competitions is unfair," Ha said in an interview with a radio show on Friday (July 27).

"There are classic music competitions, such as violin, but pop music is excluded. Pop music No. 1 is not included, making BTS who topped the Billboard chart irrelevant (to military exemption)," he said. "There are dance competitions (on the list), but not for B-Boying. Theatre is included, but film isn't."

The seven-member BTS, which stands for Bangtan Boys or Bulletproof Boy Scouts, is currently one of the most internationally successful K-pop boy bands in history.

They became the first K-pop act to top the Billboard Artist 100 chart this year, with their album Love Yourself: Tear. The album, which was released in May, also debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart, another first for a K-pop act.

The group's success has prompted Ha to argue for revisions to the list of exemptions.

"The list was made in 1973, we need to investigate why the list of international competitions for military service exemption is limited. It's not an issue of whether the list is long or short. It should be fair. We should make a fair list," he said.

Additional reporting by Jan Lee

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