SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — J-Hope, a member of K-pop sensation BTS, entered South Korea’s boot camp Tuesday to begin his 18-month mandatory military service, becoming the second member of the group to join the country’s military.
There was a heated public debate in 2022 over the possibility of compulsory military service for BTS members until the group’s management agency announced in October that all seven members would be decommissioning..
In December, Jin, 30 and a veteran member of BTS, became the first member of the band to enlist in the military. After canceling his request for a draft deferment.
South Korean television footage on Tuesday afternoon showed what they called a black minivan carrying J-Hope to the boot camp in Wonju, 90 kilometers east of Seoul. Hyebe Corporation, the parent company of BTS’s management agency Big Hit Music, later confirmed that the 29-year-old singer had joined the camp.
Dozens of fans were seen near the station after arriving on chartered buses wrapped in large photos of J-Hope and words of hope for his safe service. Authorities mobilized soldiers and police officers to maintain calm, and there were no reports of any security incidents. Big Hit Music has pleaded with fans, who call themselves “The Army”, not to come to the station due to security concerns.
“I love you Army. Let’s meet again,” J-Hope, whose real name is Jung Ho-seok, posted on online fan forum Weavers on Monday, posting photos of himself with Soldier Buzz.
Five other young members of BTS – RM, Suga, Jimin, V and Jungkook – are set to join the South Korean army one by one in the coming years. That means the world’s biggest boy band is expected to reunite as a group in a few years.
In South Korea, all able-bodied men are required by law to do 18-21 months of military service.
The law provides special exemptions to athletes, classical and traditional musicians, ballet dancers and other dancers who have won high prizes in certain competitions and are judged to have enhanced national prestige. K-pop stars and other entertainers are not subject to such privileges.
That has led to intense domestic debate over whether it’s time to amend the law to expand freedoms for members like BTS. Jin, who turned 30 in December, faced conscription because the law prohibits most South Korean men from delaying their service after turning 30.
While lawmakers debated the issue in the National Assembly, a series of public opinion polls showed divided opinions. In addition to service exemptions that may be available to BTS members. Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup said at the time that it was “desirable” for BTS members to carry out their duties to promote fairness in the country’s military service.
Exemption from military service is a serious issue in South Korea, as the draft forces young men to stop their studies or professional careers.
In the year Formed in 2013, BTS expanded their popularity in the West with their 2020 megahit “Dynamite,” the band’s first all-English song, making BTS the first K-pop act on the Billboard Hot 100.
Haibe Corporation said in October that each member of the band will focus on individual activities planned around their military service plans.
Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.