BTS break sparks debate over activism, military exemption

Seoul, South Korea (AP) – Last week’s surprise announcement by BTS that they were taking a break to focus on members’ solo projects stunned their global fanbase, shaking up their label’s stock price. And many questions were left about the future of the K-pop supergroup.

HYBE, the company behind the band, denied that the group was taking a hiatus – a term used in translation of the group’s emotional dinnertime video announcement. Since those days, the band members have been active on social media, continuing the stream of posts, photos and reassurances that the band was not breaking up.

Despite the immediate effects — HYBE’s stock initially dropped more than 25% and has yet to fully recover — several factors could still influence BTS’s future. A military recruit is about to take place for older BTS members, as well as how the group and their devoted fans, known as ARMYs, will engage in social issues.

In 2020, at the height of the BTS’s success, the South Korean government revised the country’s military law that requires able-bodied South Korean men to serve approximately two years of military service. The amended law allows top K-pop stars – including BTS’ oldest member Jin – to suspend their military service until age 30 if they have received government medals for enhancing the country’s cultural prestige and apply for adjournment. All BTS members meet the criteria to receive the Sarkari Medal in 2018.

Professor Lee Dong Yeun of Korea National University said, “Obviously there is an imminent military recruit, so they must have thought it would be a good idea to do something personally before it was too late and so I think military recruitment was the biggest factor.” ” Of art

There have been calls for exemptions for BTS because of their contribution to enhancing South Korea’s international reputation – including by South Korea’s former Minister of Culture. But critics say such an exemption would tilt recruitment rules in favor of the privileged.

Jin, 29, is expected to be listed this year unless he is exempt.

Military recruitment of members has always been a headache for HYBE; BTS once took 90% of the label’s profits. Currently, the group makes up 50%-60% of the label’s profits, according to a report by Ebest Investment & Securities.

The eBest report said the sharp stock decline could result “from the expectation that activities of the entire group may become uncertain after being discharged from the military.”

HYBE is striving to diversify its portfolio by introducing new K-pop bands, creating online games, and introducing Korean language tutorials.

As the most successful K-pop band of all time with hits such as “Dynamite” and “Butter”, BTS has garnered tremendous attention on social media over the years and with each new music release. They recently performed several sold-out shows in the United States, became the first K-pop act to receive a Grammy Award nomination, released a compilation album, “Proof”, and made their global impact with an address at the United States. and a visit to the White House to campaign against hate crimes directed at Asians.

“Once you achieve success like BTS did, it means there is a constant expectation to continue doing something that you have already done, where you are already. In the most recent release What BTS has brought out, we can also see how they consistently reflect back where they are,” said Cederboff Seiji, a professor of Korean and East Asian Studies at Pusan ​​National University.

She said Tuesday’s announcement signaled the band’s intention to “be able to fend for themselves without interference from other people” and “be able to choose their own path as artists.”

Last week’s announcement also casts doubt on the group’s social justice efforts, which include vocal support for the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-violence campaigns. Legions of BTS fans have embraced the cause, matching a $1 million donation to Black Lives Matter following the death of George Floyd.

But the group has faced questions about why it has not been vocal about discrimination in its own country.

A major South Korean newspaper recently published a column in which the author thought that despite being BTS, South Korea – an “anti-discrimination and human rights ambassador” – struggled to enact anti-discrimination laws for 15 years. Why doing

“It’s an irony,” said the author. “South Korea needs its force for good.”

The lack of an anti-discrimination law in the country has resulted in unfair treatment of women and foreigners among others.

“Why Anti-Discrimination Law?” The author of the book is Jumin Lee. told the Associated Press that there is a dire need for an anti-discrimination law in the country.

“South Korea is essentially in the same position as the Jim Crow South of America, legally. Equal protection exists as a constitutional concept, but there is no applicable law that allows the government to force private businesses to comply,” Lee said. “What this means in practice is that if I’m a business owner, I can post a sign on my door tomorrow that says ‘No Gay’ ‘No Black’ or ‘No Old People’, and the Constitutional Court Absent by extraordinary interference, there is little the law can do to stop me.”

Lee recently expressed frustration at the band for not talking about an important domestic issue.

“BTS and their business people know that speaking in America is profitable, but doing the same back home will be more trouble than it’s worth. That’s why they don’t do it,” tweeted Lee after the band’s visit to Washington.

Despite this, Lee stated that the band’s silence was understandable, adding that BTS would face “apathy at best and animosity at worst” from politicians if they spoke out.

Some South Korean celebrities such as singers Harisu and Ha:Tufelt have been speaking out on touching topics such as anti-discrimination legislation and feminism, despite the backlash.

After speaking out about the sinking of the Seovol yacht in 2014, which killed 304 people in one of the country’s worst disasters, Cannes-winning actor Song Kang-ho and director Park Chan-wook were forced to resign from the administration of ousted President Park Geun. Hi, noted Korean pop culture scholar Arem Jeong.

“Therefore, although many idols may be politically conscious, they may choose not to discuss social issues,” Jeong said.

Several BTS members said during last week’s announcement that they were struggling with the group’s successes and were having trouble writing new songs.

“To me, it was like the BTS group was in my grasp until ‘On’ and ‘Dynamite,’ but after ‘Butter’ and ‘Permission to Dance,’ I didn’t know what kind of group we were now,” Member RM said. “Whenever I write songs and lyrics, it’s really important what kind of story and message I want to convey but it was like it was gone now.”

While this clouded what could be BTS’ next steps, Seiji said his continued candor was necessary because of how much the group has influenced his fan base.

“They’re meeting fans with the same honesty and telling them, ‘You helped me when I needed it. And now I need my help,'” she said. “‘I need to be on my own. To think for myself, to know what I want to write a song about, to understand my mind, to be inspired by myself.'”

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