Is BTS not up to standards?
As military service benefits of Lim Yun-chan (18 years old, Korea National University of Arts), a piano player who recently won the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, are attracting attention, interest in military service exemptions for popular culture artists is also continuing. There is an opinion that popular culture should also be given benefits without discrimination.
Lim Yun-chan won the 16th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which closed in Fort Worth, Texas, USA on June 18th (local time), becoming the youngest winner ever. As a result, attention has been paid to the military service benefits that Lim Yun-chan will receive. It was confirmed that he had already benefited before winning the championship. 3 years ago, Lim Yun-chan became an art personnel after winning the Tongyeong International Music Festival.
According to the Military Service Act, art and sports specialists who have contributed to promoting national prestige and cultural development can serve as art and sports personnel instead of military service. Under the direction and supervision of the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, people have to serve for 34 months in the relevant field set by the head of the Military Manpower Administration. Although it is “service” in legal and administrative terms, it will be possible to continue activities without a gap.
Violinist Yang In-mo, who won the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition last month, was also able to improve his skills in his field without a career break by replacing military service as an art personnel.
As interest in art personnel increased due to a series of victories at international competitions, the issue of “equity” in military service benefits, which have not yet been applied to the popular culture community, was also reignited.
Under the current law, popular culture artists are not subject to military service exemptions. This is because there are considered below standards. However, as the cultural and economic ripple effect of popular culture has recently increased, some argue that the equity in military service benefits should be guaranteed without discrimination.
Especially in the case of BTS, they are not only proving their global status by setting first and best records in Korea one after another but also continuing to act as “private diplomats” in the international society through activities such as sharing talks with the U.S President Joe Biden recently. Therefore, the argument that claims BTS should be considered for military service exemption is gaining more strength.
BTS’s performance in Seoul before the Covid-19 pandemic was estimated to have attracted more than 180,000 audiences, including foreigners who went to the concert to watch it themselves and foreigners who came all the way to Korea because of the promotional effect. This 67% foreigner audience who filled the Pyeongchang Olympics Stadium created a value of nearly 1 trillion won. In addition, the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute estimated that the economic ripple effect of BTS concerts after the Covid-19 pandemic ended will reach up to 1.2 trillion won per show.
BTS is also said to have contributed greatly to enhancing the national image as pop culture and art artists with their achievements and activities, including three speeches at the U.N. General Assembly, 6 consecutive wins at the Billboard Music Awards, one of the most famous music awards, and becoming the first Asian artists to win at the American Music Awards.
Nevertheless, BTS is not recognized as someone who contributes to “promoting national prestige” and “culture development” under the Military Service Act. Although K-pop is gaining huge global popularity, popular art is still considered at a lower level compared to pure arts, such as classical music.
Discussions on military service exemption for popular culture and art artists have been raised a long time ago. Although BTS’s military service issue, which began in 2018, once again heated up the debates, they are often being rejected because of the high standards. Since the issue continues to resurface, opinions on pop culture discrimination are also being raised.
Now is the right time to review the military service exemption system for popular culture artists since the influence of pop culture, which includes the power of BTS, is expanding rapidly.