The global superstars of BTS will perform their mandatory military service in South Korea, the group's representatives said Monday, confirming a move that was long dreaded by their army of fans.
The group's seven members will all fulfill their requirement to serve and not seek any further delays or special exemptions, BigHit Music said in a statement. It said the oldest member, Jin, will be the first to serve, with the stars to reconvene as a group again around 2025 after fulfilling their service commitment.
Jin, 29, whose full name is Kim Seok-jin, had faced possible enlistment starting early next year after he turns 30 in December, with BTS' members having already been granted two-year extensions. That had left a cloud over the group's future and divided the country over whether to let the beloved band delay further or skip the draft entirely.
Under South Korean law, all able-bodied men are expected to serve 18 to 21 months in the military to defend against the threat from the country's nuclear-armed neighbor, North Korea. But the law allows for special exemptions for some, including athletes, musicians and others who enhance the country's prestige.
BigHit Music said in the statement that the K-pop stars were "honored to serve" their country.
The music agency said it was the "perfect time" for the announcement after a "phenomenal concert to support Busan's bid for the World Expo 2030."
Jin is expected to start the process to join the military as soon as the schedule for his solo release ends at the end of October, the agency said.
Other members of the group plan to carry out their military service based on their own plans, BigHit Music said.
"Since the creation of BTS over ten years ago, the band has risen to international success, broken records, and catapulted K-pop into the global stratosphere," the agency said.
The agency said it had been waiting for the "milestone moment when it would be possible to respect the needs of the country and for these healthy young men to serve with their countrymen, and that's now."
South Korea's military signaled in recent weeks that it wanted to conscript members of the K-pop supergroup for mandatory service.
Lee Ki-sik, the commissioner of the Military Manpower Administration, told lawmakers this month that it was "desirable" for BTS members to fulfill their military duties to ensure fairness. Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup made similar comments during a parliamentary committee meeting.
Because the draft forces young men to suspend their professional careers or studies, dodging military duties or creating exemptions is a highly sensitive issue.
BTS announced a break from group musical activities to pursue solo projects in June, raising questions about its future.