BTS military service will cost South Korea billions, economy could suffer

South Korea’s economy could lose billions as members of K-pop band BTS are slated to serve in the country’s military, meaning there won’t be any new tours or music for years to come.

Under South Korean law, all able-bodied Korean males between the ages of 18 and 28 are required to do about 20 months of military service. In 2020, the country allowed BTS members to defer their service. However, the band’s label and management company, Big Hit, announced Monday that all seven members of BTS are serving in the military and will reunite as a group “around 2025” after their service ends, according to the label’s statement.

Convening the seven BTS members could come at a high cost to the South Korean economy, according to Fortune.

In 2018, the Hyundai Research Institute found that BTS contributes over $3.6 billion to the country’s economy every year. The institute also said that the K-pop band is said to have brought about 800,000 tourists to South Korea that same year, accounting for 7% of all foreign visitors in 2018.

BTS is also believed to have generated at least $1.1 billion from exports of consumer goods, including merchandise and cosmetics, which accounted for 1.7% of all consumer goods exports in 2017. The group is said to have contributed a total of $29.1 trillion to South Korea’s economy between 2014 and 2023.

In addition to the economic impact of the band members’ conscription, their hiatus and announcement of military service also caused shares in HYBE Entertainment, its management company, to fall about 2.5%, according to Fortune. In contrast, the company’s shares plunged 28% in June as members announced they were going on hiatus. HYBE later insisted that the word “hiatus” was a mistranslation.

Following the announcement of BTS’ conscription, HYBE released a statement saying it had spent years preparing for the band’s military hiatus and saying they were “confident in the structure that has been put in place over the past 10 years.”

There are currently eight other artists in the HYBE roster, including Seventeen, Tomorrow x Together, Enhypen, Le Sserafim, New Jeans Zico, Fromis_9, Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber.

K-pop sensations BTS may still be allowed to perform and prepare for international concerts even as they complete their mandatory military service in South KoreaPOOL via AFP / YOAN VALAT

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