Friday marks Kim Seok-jin's 28th birthday. It could've also marked the splintering of K-pop sensation BTS, of which Kim (stage name Jin) is the oldest member, since able-bodied men in South Korea must submit to military service by age 28. But no matter—South Korea has changed its law to avoid such heartbreak. The National Assembly has approved a revision to the country's Military Service Act that will allow "a pop culture artist who was recommended by the Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism to have greatly enhanced the image of Korea both within the nation and throughout the world" to delay their service until age 30, per ABC News. President Moon Jae-in is now expected to sign the "BTS bill," which would allow all seven members, who received government medals in 2018, to perform together for another two years.
BTS fans were ecstatic at the news, which follows previous exemptions for award-winning classical and folk musicians; elite athletes, including Olympians and champions of the Asian Games; and those enrolled in PhD programs in other countries. In those cases, similar arguments were made about individuals' roles in boosting national prestige, per the New York Times. But such exemptions are rare as South Korea, which is technically at war with North Korea, works to maintain a conscripted military of 620,000. Following decades of low birth rates, that's been a bit of a struggle. The department in charge of recruiting soldiers had refused to offer service exemptions to BTS members in October, citing fairness, though it did approve the postponement. The bill passed with a vote of 268-2 as lawmakers noted the money BTS has brought in to the economy, per CBS News. (Read more BTS stories.)