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BTS Is Taking a Break From Running Pop Music to Enlist in the South Korea Military

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Get ready to endure a hiatus from now until 2025 from your favorite K-pop group as they comply with South Korea military conscription rules.

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BTS perform onstage during the 64th Annual Grammy Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 03, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.Courtesy of Matt Winkelmeyer via Getty Images

For most of the last decade, BTS has been one of the truly indomitable forces of pop music, topping the charts and selling out arena shows around the country. But their label, Big Hit, announced on October 17 that the septet will be going on a multiyear hiatus as members of the trailblazing group begin the process of enlisting in the South Korea military.

According to Big Hit’s press release, Jin, the eldest member of the group at 29, “will initiate the process as soon as his schedule for his solo release is concluded at the end of October.” There is no timetable for the other six members of the group, but the label wrote that they “are looking forward to reconvening as a group again around 2025 following their service commitment.” The 2025 target date implies that younger members like Jungkook and Jimin, both 25, could start their service on the earlier side.

South Korea’s military conscription rules state that men must enlist before turning 30 and serve for 18 or more months. There has been some controversy in Korea around some top athletes, such as South Korean MLB players and Olympic competitors, receiving exemptions for service. Certain musicians can be exemption eligible, but not in the field of K-pop, despite its exploding popularity and tremendous market share. (Fortune, citing the Hyundai Research Institute, wrote that by 2018, BTS brought more than $3 billion to the South Korean economy, and that in 2017 more than 7 percent of all tourists were inspired to visit the country because of BTS.) Refusing to serve can have a significant impact on the viability of a Korean entertainer’s career. When singer Yoo Seung-jun, a major star in the 1990s, changed his nationality and forfeited his Korean passport to allegedly avoid serving in the military, he was subsequently banned from entering South Korea.

News of the enlistment follows an October 15 concert in Busan, which critics have noted very much had the tone of a farewell show. Teen Vogue quoted several BTS members, who were clearly looking ahead in their comments. “I really didn’t want to age,” said Jimin, “but now I’m curious about what we’ll look like in 10 years. I’m not scared at all. I think I’ll be so happy in the future… I believe what we’ve done so far is just a taste.”

Since releasing its first album in August 2014, BTS has tirelessly produced new work, . releasing nine studio albums, several EPs, and four concert films, to say nothing of their staggeringly successful tours. Their English-language singles like “Dynamite” and “Butter” have been ubiquitous hits in the United States, and their members have collaborated with American stars like Halsey and Juice WRLD.

Being out of the spotlight for more than two years is a significant risk in today’s fast-paced music industry. But whether out of confidence, optimism, or hope, BTS believes their massive, passionate fan base–known as the Army–is unlikely to whither much before 2025.

“We’ll always be here by your side, whether it be 20 or 30 years on,” Suga told the Busan audience. “Let’s grow old together.”

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