Yuncheon, South Korea
K-pop supergroup BTS entered a new era on Tuesday as Jin, its oldest member, began his mandatory military service amid tight security at an army training center in… South Korea.
Gene30, will spend 18 months in uniform after crossing into the Yeoncheon military base in North Gyeonggi Province, where security personnel and the media outnumber a few hundred fans who gathered to catch a glimpse of the star – ignoring his earlier pleas for them to stay away.
A convoy of six black trucks, which were supposed to carry Jin and his security crew, entered the base shortly before 2 p.m.
Numerous signs along the way welcomed Jin and the other recruits to the base, which is less than 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the Demilitarized Zone that separates South Korea from North Korea.
Among the recruits who joined the 5th Infantry Division on Tuesday was Kim Seok-jin, 20, from Daejeon — who shares the same full name as the star recruit.
While waiting outside a restaurant across from the base with his parents, Kim showed off his new bob haircut—the same style Jin got a few days earlier—and said he was nervous while he waited to go inside.
“But I’m also excited to get in with Jen,” he said, adding that he hopes they can become friends.
Among the BTS fans outside the base on Tuesday was Lee Hey-Kyoung, a 40-year-old from Seoul, who combined a subway, bus and taxi ride to make the trip to the base on Tuesday morning.
“It’s a very cold winter and I think he will suffer in the army. That’s why I came here,” he told me.
Nearby was Mandy Lee, who had flown in from Hong Kong to say goodbye to Jane.
“We wish him all the best and that he stays safe and healthy and we will be waiting for him for 18 months,” she said.
Military service is compulsory in South Korea, where almost all able-bodied men are required to serve in the military for 18 months by the time they turn 28.
South Korea’s parliament passed a bill in 2020 that allows pop stars — that is, those who “excel in popular culture and arts” — to defer their service until the age of 30.
In October, BTS’ record company said that all seven members of the group were planning to do military service. BTS They are expected to reunite as a group around 2025, according to BIGHIT Music.
Jin’s service will begin with a five-week basic training course before being assigned to the unit, based on standard practice.
Park Si-woo, 23, who underwent training at the base in 2021, told CNN that Jin would likely find himself in the barracks with about 40 other recruits sharing bunk beds.
Park said recruits will get up around 6:30 a.m. to begin their daily routine, which includes physical exercises, as well as combat and weapons training.
The recruits must give up their cell phones, so Jin’s initial contact will be through messages that fans can send online which will then be printed out and sent to him. Military officials said Jin would have limited access to his cell phone over the weekend.
One of the things Gene and other recruits might appreciate is food, Park said, adding, “We got plenty of snacks during training — beef jerky, buttered waffle snacks, drinks.”
Once integrated into South Korea’s forces, Jin will become one of about 560,000 soldiers, according to the South Korean military’s website.
BTS have become global superstars since their debut in 2013, garnering #1 hits in over 100 countries, more than 46 million followers on Twitter and being named Time magazine’s Entertainment of the Year in 2020.
They have also become an important part of the South Korean economy – a 2019 study showed that BTS was responsible for 0.3% of the country’s GDP with $4.9 billion in revenue.
Critics say BTS is a one-of-a-kind phenomenon.
Music critic Eunha Kim said, “BTS’ place in the scene is unique.” “I think there is no need to say more. In fact, not only in the K-pop scene but looking at the entire history of Korean music, there has never been such a group and it will be difficult for another group to emerge in the future.”
Future teen idol. Typical social media ninja. Alcohol buff. Explorer. Creator. Beer advocate.”