BTS star Jin begins military service in South KoreaThe K-pop megastar reported to a boot camp Tuesday near the country’s border with its nuclear-armed neighbor, North Korea.
Dec. 13, 2022, 10:21 AM UTC / Updated Dec. 13, 2022, 2:55 PM UTC
Stella Kim and Marie Brockling
SEOUL, South Korea — K-pop star Jin began his 18 months of mandatory military service in South Korea on Tuesday, launching supergroup BTS and its army of fans into an uncertain new era.
Jin reported to a boot camp near the country’s border with its nuclear-armed neighbor, making him the first BTS star to serve in the military. He is the group’s oldest member and will be followed in enlisting in the coming years by his six bandmates — meaning BTS will take a hiatus for a few years.
The singer, whose real name is Kim Seok-jin, reported to a training center in Yeoncheon where frontline troops are deployed on guard against North Korea early Tuesday.
He will undergo five weeks of basic training, which will involve rifle-shooting, grenade-throwing, and marching practices before being assigned to a military unit.
Some 500 other young men are serving the mandatory military service with Jin, the South Korean defense ministry told NBC News.
Jin posted a photo on Weverse, an online fan platform, on Sunday showing himself with a military buzzcut.
He also left a message for his fans hours before entering the camp, saying “It’s time for a curtain call.”
“I look cuter than thought,” said Jin in the Weverse post showing off his new haircut.Weverse via APHe was driven into the base past a small group holding photos and posters bearing his image.
Jin asked his fans to stay away from the training center to avoid dangerous crowding in another Weverse post.
Around 300 officers from the military, local government, and related organizations were deployed at the camp on Tuesday to ensure the safety of the location as Jin arrived, according to a spokesperson for South Korea’s defense ministry.
The caution comes after 153 people died in a crowd crush in Seoul during Halloween festivities.
Jin turned 30 this month, fueling a heated national debate about whether he should enlist.
In South Korea, all able-bodied men between 18 and 28 years old must serve in the army for at least 18 months. As a recognized K-pop star, Jin was able to defer his compulsory military service until age 30.
Vehicles believed to be with BTS singer Jin arrive at the main gate of a military training unit in Yeoncheon, South Korea, on Tuesday. Jung Yeon-Je / AFP – Getty ImagesMillions of BTS fans around the world, who call themselves the “army,” are grieving the band’s hiatus.
“It was sudden but not unexpected,” 25-year-old Gurpeet Dhillon from Hong Kong told NBC News. “I respect their decision by putting their country first and stop delaying the mandatory military service,” said Dhillon, who describes herself as a full-time BTS fan.
“2025 is gonna be a long wait but I know we all, the ‘army,’, will be waiting for them to come back together again as BTS,” she added.
South Korean law does allow for special exemptions from compulsory military service for some, including athletes, traditional musicians, and others who enhance the country’s prestige. Prior to the October announcement that the band would enlist, there was discussion about whether K-Pop stars should also be afforded such benefits given their international popularity.
“Those in the pop culture sector experience little bit of disadvantages and unfairness, compared with those in the pure art sector or athletes,” Jung Duk-hyun, a pop culture commentator, told the Associated Press. “This will likely continue to be an issue of controversy so I wonder if it must be discussed continuously.”
Lee Jong-sup, the country’s defense minister, said in August that BTS members who are serving would likely be allowed to continue practicing and to join other non-serving BTS members in overseas group tours.
In October Jin released his first solo single, “the astronaut.”. While Jin is away, the six younger BTS members will also pursue individual projects and BTS will reconvene as a group around 2025 when all seven members have completed their military service, according to their label Bighit Music.
“There’s much more yet to come in the years ahead from BTS,” the label said.
Stella Kim reported from Seoul, and Marie Brockling reported from Hong Kong.
Stella Kim is an NBC News freelance producer based in Seoul.