Image credit: Meera Kannan
ARMYs were making petitions to get the South Korean government to recognize and exempt BTS from the mandatory military service.
On July 26, 2018, Billboard’s Tamar Herman wrote an article about Politician Ha Tae Kyung addressing the National Assembly Defense Committee to call for amendments towards the criteria for military exemptions. While the article in question talked about the government officials’ discussion on whether these military exemptions should be extended to other internationally-renowned celebrities, the article stated, before corrections were made, that it was fans that petitioned the government to exempt BTS from military service.
The Billboard’s article is not the first to bring up BTS and government discussions over military exemptions for celebrities. The Korean Times, the Korean Herald, and Soompi, among others, also wrote about the new discussions. However, only Soompi and news.join, a Korean newspaper, expanded on what politician Ha Tae Kyung was trying to accomplish in the meeting:
“There are requests for BTS to be exempt from mandatory military service, so I examined the list of international competitions that determines the exemptions and found that there is a problem in terms of fairness,” he stated.
“If you win first place in a classical music competition such as for the violin or the piano, you’re given an exemption from mandatory military service, but if you take first place on Billboard with popular music, you are not given an exemption,” Ha Tae Kyung explained.
“PSY set a new world record for YouTube views,” he said. “He has an incredibly large influence on people throughout the world.”
“However, the things that encourage our whole nation to dream and give inspiration to young people are not on [the military service exemption list],” he stated. “First place in a ballet competition is on [the list], but there’s no first place for b-boys on it. There are also none of the gaming competitions that are dominating in the world, and while the field of theatre is there, film is not.” He stated that reforms need to be made that are in accordance with the viewpoint of young people today.”
-Ha Tae Kyung, “Politician Calls For Further Consideration Of Contributions To The Arts In Criteria For Special Military Exemption”, Soompi
The problem with these claims that ARMYs petition for military exemption is based on the petitions themselves. BTS has millions of dedicated fans and yet when these petitions appeared in June and May, only 20 to 40 people signed the petitions since then. The petitions also grant anonymity, so there is no accurate way for researchers or journalists to know for certain that it is actually ARMYS signing these petitions.