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South Korea passes law to allow BTS to postpone military service


By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's parliament on Tuesday passed a bill to allow globally recognised K-pop artists such as BTS to postpone their mandatory military service to age 30.

All able-bodied South Korean men aged between 18 and 28 must serve in the military for about two years as part of the country's efforts to guard against North Korea.

The amendment to the Military Service Act was designed to provide exceptions for K-pop megastars who improve the country's cultural status and boost the economy.

South Korea allows eligible students to defer their duties up to age 28 and has granted exemptions for high-profile classical musicians and athletes who won Olympic medals or a gold at the Asian Games, including Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min.

No K-pop stars had received exemptions but the new bill will ensure entertainers recommended by the culture minister can defer their service to age 30.

The oldest member of BTS, 27-year-old Jin, is nearing enlistment at a time when the seven-member boy band is rewriting K-pop history.

Since launching in 2013, BTS has driven the global K-pop craze with catchy, upbeat music alongside lyrics and social campaigns aimed at empowering young people.

It recently notched a first ever No.1 hit single on the U.S. Billboard charts with the song "Dynamite", and bagged an unprecedented Grammy nomination as a K-pop band.

"Pop artists tend to make their highest achievements in their 20s but many of them had to pursue a graduate degree to delay their service," said Jeon Yong-gi, who co-authored the bill.

BTS's management, Big Hit Entertainment, did not respond to a request for comment on the legislative change, but Jin and other band members have previously said they would fulfil their duties as required.

Military service is a contentious issue in South Korea. A poll released last month by local news outlet E-Today showed some 53% of respondents supported special treatment for BTS, while 47% opposed it.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, editing by Ed Osmond)

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