Jin of BTS Completes His Military Service

The K-pop juggernaut BTS is one step closer to a reunion.

The first member of the boy band to enlist in South Korea’s army, Jin, 31, was discharged on Wednesday morning, BTS’s label said. Over the next year or so, his bandmates are expected to complete their military service, which is required of nearly all South Korean men.

BTS shocked its own Army — as the seven-member group’s fervent following is collectively known — in June 2022 when they said they would go on hiatus to enlist. Jin, the group’s eldest member, whose birth name is Kim Seok-jin, began his 18-month stint in the military that December. His enlistment came after much public debate about whether BTS should get an exemption from the draft, as Olympic medalists and some classical musicians do.

Still, the group was given some leeway. Most men in South Korea have to enlist before they turn 28. Days before Jin reached that milestone, lawmakers revised the conscription law to allow pop artists who have bolstered the nation’s reputation to postpone their enlistment for two years. Researchers say BTS’s global success has contributed billions of dollars to the South Korean economy.

The group’s music also seems to have become a military asset. Earlier this week, South Korea blasted K-pop music, reportedly including the BTS hits “Dynamite” and “Butter,” into North Korea in retaliation for the hundreds of trash balloons that Pyongyang has been sending south.

In recent days, the band’s label pleaded with fans to refrain from flocking to the military site outside Seoul where Mr. Kim was to be discharged. Fans weren’t the only ones who have been waiting for this day: Jin posted a “D-100” countdown on social media in March.

Here’s what to know about BTS and South Korea’s draft.

For decades, conscripts typically had to serve three years. By the early 2000s, that had been reduced to 24 months. In 2021, the minimum enlistment was cut to 18 months.

The length of service varies: it’s 18 months in the army or marines, 20 months in the navy or 21 months in the air force. With the exception of Suga, who is performing alternative service in social work, all of the members of BTS signed up for the army.

The last BTS members to join the military — RM, V, Jung Kook and Jimin — started their service in December.

Band members have remained commercially active, releasing music and videos that were produced before their enlistment. Last month, the group’s leader, RM, released an album, “Right Place, Wrong Person,” that was accompanied by a series of music videos. Jung Kook, whose English-language album “Golden” hit No. 1 on the Billboard top album sales chart last year, released a new single on Friday.

In 2022, BTS’s label said the members would reunite “around 2025.” That is still the plan, according to a spokeswoman for the label’s parent company, Hybe. Given the timing of the group’s conscription dates, fans will likely have to wait at least until mid-2025 before seeing all seven members together onstage.

But fans were ecstatic on Wednesday. “I can’t believe this day has come,” one posted on X. “I’m in tears.”

Jin is scheduled to make a public appearance in Seoul on Thursday. He has promised to give hugs to exactly 1,000 fans.

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