“BTS is not a national representative?” The media’s opposition against the opposition of BTS’s art representative title

Dispatch recently posted a series of articles reflecting its position on the debate on BTS’s military service exemption. 

BTS is not a national representative.” Pianist Cho Sung-jin is not a member of any national team or a national representative either. He is the best pianist in Korea, or even in the world.

“BTS is not an amateur.” Soccer player Son Heung-min is not an amateur either. He is a Korean in the top 10 of the English Premier League.


BTS makes money for their own.” Baseball player Ryu Hyun-jin also makes money for his own. He is the second-highest-paid Korean in the Toronto Blue Jays.

BTS members are not artists.” Lee Chang-ho, the “King of Go,” is not an artist. He is a Korean who has raised the simple game of Go to the level of art in Korea, or even the world. (Lee Chang-ho was selected as an “art representative” in recognition of his contribution and enjoyed military service exemption.)


In 1973, the Ministry of National Defense established the arts and sports sector in the Act on the Regulation of Special Provisions for Military Obligations. It provided alternative service opportunities for arts and sports specialists who contributed to the promotion of national prestige and cultural development.

Fifty years since the art and sports representative system were implemented. Military service exemptions have increased and decreased like rubber bands. 


“Promotion of national prestige and culture” is the keyword for special military service for art and sports representatives. However, the standard for BTS‘s promotion of national prestige and cultural development are particularly harsh. Last year, a revision to the Military Service Act (the inclusion of art representatives for pop culture names) was discussed in the National Assembly, but so far, it has not taken any step forward.

During the meeting for the mentioned revision, some questions were raised. “There is a problem of equity here. If they got exempted because they are No. 1 on Billboard, how about the No. 1 on Oricon Chart?” (A from Department of Defense) and “They’ve gained tens of trillions of economic profits? Then the children of Samsung’s family should get exempted too.” (B from the Parliament)


We would like to ask Deputy Secretary A from the Department of Defense. Is the current process for recognizing and accepting one as an art representative fair? The Ministry of National Defense relied on UNESCO’s authority to select art representatives. For example, the government provides alternative service opportunities for 1st and 2nd places in 37 international competitions recognized by UNESCO. In addition, five domestic competitions were added.

The problem is that this standard is also against anyone’s equity. Quite so, it is administrative expediency. According to statistical data released in 2018, 280 art representatives have received military service exemption over the past 10 years. There are 142 winners of international competitions and 138 winners of domestic competitions. Depending on the major, joy and sorrow were inevitably mixed.


In fact, domestic competitions accounted for a great proportion. The winners of competitions, such as The Dong-A Korean Traditional Music Competition, Jeonju Daesaseup Festival, etc., accounted for half of the amount of art representatives.

Member of Parliament – B knows the economic effects of BTS. In a report released by Hyundai Economic Research Institute, it is said that BTS’s economic inducement effect from 2014 to 2023 is 56 trillion won. Nevertheless, B said, “If it is because of the economic effect, even Samsung chaebol’s children won’t have to enlist”. This is not an article urging pop culture workers to become arts representative nor calling for BTS’s alternative service. Let’s at least weigh everything in a reasonable way.


Therefore, Dispatch commissioned <A Survey for the Public’s Opinion on Military Service Exemption> to the polling agency. As a result of the <Military Service Exemption Awareness Survey>, 91% of respondents said that raising national prestige is important. 95% raised their hands on the importance of cultural development. K-pop (98%) and BTS (64%) topped the list of contributions to national prestige and cultural development.

Survey participants (89%) also agreed to grant the benefits according to the contribution of the value. In addition, more than 70% of respondents demanded improvement in the current system of arts representative. There were many opinions that the field should be expanded according to the trend of the times. Respondents (78%) also agreed on the inclusion of pop culture names as arts representative.  According to their standard of incorporation, the number of prestigious overseas awards won by them (59%) was overwhelming. 25% of respondents suggested using the Presidential Citation as the standard.


When asked about the album preparation process, an official from a singer’s agency said, “The trainees are preparing for the Jeonju Daesaseup Festival”, adding that the company wanted to solve the military service problem before their debut.

The Ministry of National Defense said that if the standards for incorporating arts representative are expanded, “concerns about misuse will grow”. But already, some competitions have long been called ‘auditions for military exemption’. Now is not the time to worry about misuse, but to set standards, if they still value national prestige and cultural development.

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