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With RM and V on Monday, and Jimin and Jungkook on Tuesday, all seven members of BTS have now officially headed off to begin their mandatory service in the South Korean military.
It’s an emotional week for the BTS ARMY, the devoted fanbase of global K-pop boy band sensation BTS. After seeing off the band’s eldest members late last year and throughout the months that followed, this week saw the remaining four members embark on their respective service.
All able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 28 are required to serve in South Korea’s military, usually for a period of around 18 months. In 2020, BTS was able to defer their enlistment to the age of 30 — and now that time has come, requiring each of the band’s seven members to begin their mandatory service.
The band’s enlistments started last December, when eldest member Jin began his military training shortly after turning 30; he was followed by J-Hope in April, and Suga in September. This week saw the remaining four members head off to begin their training — RM and V on Monday; Jimin and Jungkook on Tuesday.
As military trainees, the members of BTS will undergo five weeks of training before being given their specific assignments. Suga, who underwent shoulder surgery in 2020, is fulfilling his requirements as a social service agent, while the other six men are said to be serving in the army.
Mandatory military service in South Korea usually lasts around 18 months, but it’s difficult to know exactly when BTS will be free to reconvene as a recording and touring act. Theoretically, they’ll get back together in 2025, when most of them should be wrapping up their 18 months of service. But it’s also reasonable to assume it might be 2026, to allow the members a few months at home with family and friends, and to dust off their dance moves.
Though fans have known for years that eventually they would wave goodbye to the band’s seven members as they embark on their mandatory service in the South Korean military, they had hoped that perhaps BTS would earn an exemption for its contributions to South Korea’s economy and cultural exports. But the government has only granted such exemptions to Olympic medalists and the occasional classical musician — pop stars remain ineligible, which has sparked endless debate among K-pop fans.