In a recent development that has caught the attention of K-pop fans worldwide, South Korean Defence Minister Shin Won-sik announced a decision to prohibit BTS member J-Hope from taking part in a special military culinary event. This move underscores the country’s stance on ensuring equal responsibilities for all individuals undergoing mandatory military service, regardless of their celebrity status.
J-Hope, a globally recognized member of the phenomenal K-pop group BTS, began his compulsory military service in April and currently serves as an assistant instructor at the 36th Infantry Division’s recruit training centre. The military cooking competition, a collaborative event among the South Korean, US, and Singaporean militaries, is being held in Seoul and celebrates culinary talents within these armed forces.
The Defence Minister’s decision came after considerations were almost finalized for J-Hope to host the fourth edition of this international event. Additionally, there were plans for a promotional video featuring other BTS members. However, these plans were scrapped following a review by the Defence Ministry, with Minister Shin emphasizing the importance of standard military duties for all, including those who were celebrities before their conscription.
This ruling aligns with South Korea’s strict military service requirements, where all able-bodied men under the age of 30 are mandated to serve approximately two years, mainly due to the ongoing technical state of war with North Korea. BTS, a group that has significantly contributed to the South Korean economy and culture, has been at the center of debates regarding military service exemptions for artists. Despite their global fame and economic impact, the current law reserves exemptions for globally recognized athletes and classical musicians, leaving K-pop stars like BTS to fulfill their national duties.
Jin, another BTS member, was the first to enlist last year, with Suga also currently serving as a social service agent due to a shoulder injury. The remaining members, RM, Jimin, Jungkook, and V, are engaged in solo projects, with plans for the band to reunite in 2025.
The decision to treat J-Hope like any other soldier during his military service reflects South Korea’s commitment to egalitarian principles within its armed forces, regardless of an individual’s pre-enlistment fame or societal contributions. This stance has been a subject of extensive discussion, particularly in the context of South Korea’s contemporary cultural icons and their obligations to the country.