The final four members of the immensely popular South Korean group BTS, who were yet to fulfil their mandatory military service, have commenced the enlistment process, according to a statement from the group's label, BIGHIT MUSIC, on Wednesday.
In South Korea, all able-bodied men are required to serve at least 18 months in the military. After much debate about whether BTS should be exempted, the oldest member, Jin, enlisted last year, followed by J-Hope in April and Suga in September. Now, the remaining four members — RM, Jimin, V, and Jung Kook — are preparing to begin their military service, marking a significant development for the global K-pop phenomenon.
"We would like to inform our fans that RM, Jimin, V, and Jung Kook have initiated the military enlistment process," the statement said.
"We ask you for your continued love and support for RM, Jimin, V, and Jung Kook until they complete their military service and safely return."
BTS achieved remarkable success before their hiatus in June last year, securing six No. 1 hits on the US Hot 100 chart. Individually also, all seven members reached the top of the charts with solo tracks, solidifying their influence in the music industry.
Since their debut in 2013, BTS has been credited with generating billions of dollars for South Korea and enhancing the country's image and soft power on the global stage. The group has received invitations to speak at the United Nations and to meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House.
Earlier this year, Bang Si-hyuk, the chairman of BTS's agency HYBE, expressed concerns that the mandatory military service was hindering the global growth of K-pop. While some individuals, such as Olympic medal-winning athletes and certain classical musicians, are eligible for exemptions, K-pop stars do not qualify under the existing programme.
In a highly competitive industry where artists can be easily replaced, male K-pop stars have faced challenges in resuming their careers after completing military service. Despite this, HYBE announced in September that all seven members of BTS had renewed their contracts, suggesting their continued commitment to the agency after fulfilling their military duties.