Written by Raisa Hasan
With numerous chart-topping hits, elaborate choreography, and positive messaging, it’s no wonder the South Korean K-Pop group BTS has established a globally known name for themselves. BTS, or the “Bangtan Boys,” and its seven members Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook first debuted in 2013. Since then, they have retained a notable position on the international stage, not only for their musical talent, but the constructive use of their platform. In 2018, the group spoke about climate change and digital interconnectedness at the United Nations, and again in 2021, where they discussed the power and potential of today’s youth and performed one of their hit songs “Permission to Dance.” In May 2022, they met with President Biden to discuss the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes.
Back home, the boys play a notable role as well, bringing in between an estimated $3.6-4.9 billion annually (in US dollars). These figures are equivalent to the output of 26 mid-sized companies combined, and make up around 0.3% of South Korea’s yearly GDP. However, the Hyundai Research Institute predicts that this sizable monetary contribution could be lost during the group’s (“temporary”) break. In South Korea, all able-bodied men ages 18-28 must serve in the military for 18 months or longer, depending on the type of service post. An amendment, or slight exception, was made to the draft law in 2020 with figures like the members of BTS in mind, wherein those in the entertainment industry can postpone service till the age of 30. So while BTS reigns in international recognition, their global adoration will not exempt them from South Korean law.
The oldest member, Jin, will begin his service in late 2022, and the other six members plan to fulfill their service on their respective terms. Following their service, they have announced their plans to reconvene as a group in 2025. In the meantime, each of them will continue their music careers by releasing solo pieces.
Of course, this change of affairs warrants a number of varying reactions from BTS’s adoring fanbase. I asked around the Wheatley community– fans or not alike– for their take on the matter, and I received a great amount of unique takes. Some predict and/or worry that members will be either idolized or made fun of, hindering their opportunity to serve as any ordinary citizen. Another common sentiment was concern for their mental health post-service. And while it’s unclear what specific positions the boys will serve, it remains a valid prediction and possible obstacle in the future. People have very mixed opinions on their pending reunion in 2025, though, regarding whether or not the prospect is viable. Overall, there are still many questions as to what BTS’s future holds, but in the meantime, it seems the spirit of their fans remains alive.