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We’ve Been Dreading It for Years and Now It’s Official—BTS Is Leaving for Military Service

Entering my ARMY wife era.

BTS in "Butter" music video.

Every fan of a K-Pop boy group — or a male K-Pop celebrity, for that matter — knows that there will come a time when all the members of said group have to stop their activities to start their mandatory military service, a reality for all South Korean male citizens due to the delicate geopolitical situation in the Korean peninsula.

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For quite some time, it seemed like BTS’s astronomical success — making the seven members of the band some of the most influential people in the world and resulting in BTS accounting for a significant part in South Korea’s GDP — would have granted them the exemption that is usually reserved for accomplished classical musicians and athletes in the prime of their career. 

However, the group’s recent announcement that they would be going on a hiatus and stop releasing music as BTS for a while to focus on each member’s solo projects — kicked off by J-Hope’s debut album Jack in the Box and his on-fire performance at this year’s Lollapalooza — had the fandom worried. Any mentions of a break could mean that the enlistment date was drawing closer and that Big Hit was probably trying to ease ARMYs into it while making the final preparations to make sure that the members could leave in as smooth a way as possible.

And on Monday, October 17, while everyone was still basking in the glory of BTS’s performance at the 2030 Busan World Expo Concert where we finally got to hear live the two new tracks from their anthology album Proof, Big Hit released its dreaded press release. 

“BIGHIT MUSIC is proud to announce today that the members of BTS are currently moving forward with plans to fulfil their military service. After the phenomenal concert to support Busan’s bid for the World Expo 2030, and as each individual embarks on solo endeavours, it’s the perfect time and the members of BTS are honoured to serve,” it reads in the first paragraph. So let’s break down what this means for the group— as I break down myself thinking of what’s ahead of us.

How long is South Korea’s military service?

First of all, a bit of background on South Korea’s military service. The conscription laws of the country — dictated in South Korea’s Constitution — establish that all male citizens have to perform 18 months of mandatory military duties by the time they are 28. They may enlist anytime between those ages but they have to start serving before they turn 30.

Jin, the oldest of the BTS members, actually received a two-year postponement when he turned 28 in 2020 for his contributions to South Korea’s culture and international image— all the while a ferocious internal debate among business owners, military leaders and politicians raged to try and decide whether or not BTS had the right to an exemption.

When it comes to musical artists, there are a selected number of international competitions whose victory constitutes grounds for an exemption from military service— most of these competitions are for classical music, though, since there really hasn’t been any K-Pop group so far that has risen to the heights BTS have reached. 

From Billboard Awards to Grammy nominations to speaking at the United Nations as the voice of young people around the world, the group’s list of accomplishments is so long that fans thought it could constitute an equally valid reason to grant BTS that exemption. That was, however, not the case.

When is BTS going to the military? The BTS enlistment dates

“Since the creation of BTS over ten years ago, the band has risen to international success, broken records, and catapulted K-Pop into the global stratosphere. BIGHIT MUSIC has focused to the milestone moment when it would be possible to respect the needs of the country and for these healthy young men to serve with their countrymen, and that’s now. Group member Jin will initiate the process as soon as his schedule for his solo release is concluded at the end of October. He will then follow the enlistment procedure of the Korean government. Other members of the group plan to carry out their military service based on their own individual plans,” it reads in Big Hit’s press release.

As the fandom expected, Jin is going to be the first to enlist since he’s the oldest among the seven members of BTS. He will do so as soon as he has finished promoting his solo debut— something that ARMYs weren’t aware of but that will be a nice final moment before an almost two-year-long break. Plus, it seems like Jin’s solo debut will be with a song that was created in collaboration with Coldplay— who BTS already worked with for their shared single “My Universe”.

It’s still unclear when exactly the rest of the members will go. If they’re sticking to their age order, then the next one to leave should be SUGA, who’s one year younger than Jin; then RM and J-Hope, who were both born in 1994; then the 1995s, Jimin and V; and finally the group’s maknae Jungkook, who was born in 1997. Still, as of this moment, it’s all speculation.

When will BTS reunite?

“Both the company and the members of BTS are looking forward to reconvening as a group again around 2025 following their service commitment,” Big Hit declared in its press release. The fact that it will be three years at the very least before we get to see another moment of BTS as a group was honestly an emotional blow that I did not deserve on an otherwise irrelevant Monday morning.

Still, if BTS says that they will return then there are a lot of good reasons to believe they will— they after all promised ARMYs that they would be active for “decades” in their ments at their Busan concert, which they knew was going to be their final group performance for a good while.

The fandom reactions

In the middle of all this chaos and emotional turmoil, ARMYs remain a spirited fandom that deals with their issues by being absolutely hilarious on stan Twitter and proving once more that even if BTS goes inactive for a while the fandom will always be there to support them and also one another as we all start counting down the days until 2025. So, to end this piece on a slightly uplifting note, here are some of the best gems that ARMY Twitter produced ever since the announcement on Monday:

https://twitter.com/nirvanqs/status/1582025748709224448

(source: Twitter; image: HYBE)

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Author

Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.

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