6 out of 10 South Koreans approve of BTS members’ exemption from military service

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Members of South Korean pop group BTS speak during a press briefing at the White House on May 31, 2022 in Washington. (Los Angeles Times/Getty/Kyodo)

SEOUL (Kyodo) — A recent South Korean public opinion survey showed that 60.9 percent of the population approve of revisions to the compulsory military service law in a way that would allow celebrities like members of the world famous K-pop boy group BTS to avoid being drafted.

The results of the survey, commissioned from South Korea’s Realmeter polling firm by the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee, are likely to add momentum to the debate on the issue, given calls from lawmakers in power and the opposition in the committee to change the law.

However, the Ministry of Defense was reluctant to see the law amended.

Currently, the law exempts elite athletes and winners of artistic competitions from military service, which is compulsory for all eligible men. Lawmakers have pushed to extend the exemptions to the realm of pop culture.

The poll, conducted among about 1,000 people across the country last Wednesday and Thursday, showed that 34.3% of South Koreans oppose the law change.

Amid calls from lawmakers to change the military service law, Defense Minister Lee Jong Seop told a National Assembly session on August 31 that he would consider conducting a survey to be used in the policy making. The next day, the Ministry of Defense said it would not be leading the investigation.

The eldest member of BTS’s seven members, Jin, will turn 30 at the end of this year, requiring him to begin his mandatory service under current law.

The parliament’s national defense committee said following the public inquiry that it intended to come to a conclusion on a related debate soon.

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