See you again soon, J-hope!
K-pop supergroup BTS’ member J-Hope officially started his military service on April 18, 2023, after posting a farewell message to fans online.
J-Hope is the second member of the popular K-pop band to enlist in the military.
In South Korea, able-bodied men between 18 and 35 years old must enlist in military service for 18-21 months. South Korea’s compulsory military service has long been a source of grievance for many young men, who begrudge it for taking them away from their studies, work, and friends.
J-Hope’s new journey
Jin, the oldest in the group, was the first to enter the service from the band in December 2022. The rest of the group is expected to enlist in the next few years.
The band announced a hiatus last year to focus on solo projects, with J-Hope recently releasing solo music featuring rapper J Cole.
The 29-year-old posted a picture of his freshly-shaven head on Instagram before being driven to the city of Wonju to take part in the military enlistment ceremony.
He writes: “I’ll have a good trip!”
The post racked up almost 10 million likes from the Army – the name of BTS’s fanbase. Many shared messages of encouragement and support.
The band also posted a final picture together, with Jin joining in his military uniform.
??? ???? pic.twitter.com/vEJ6hGehnQ— ????? (@BTS_twt) April 18, 2023
Some fans also turned up in the area of the army base, according to the news agency Yonhap. Others rented a bus covered in pictures of J-Hope which was parked close by.
Online, tens of thousands of fans have already messaged J-Hope to offer their own advice and tell him how terribly they will miss him.
Who’s next after J-Hope?
Questions were raised for years over whether BTS would be forced to undertake the mandatory service, and whether their contribution to the arts should make them exempt.
However, in 2019 the Ministry of Defence ruled that they would have to serve.
There used to be a special unit for celebrities, where they could continue to work as entertainers and were given privileges. But there was a public outcry when some were found abusing the system, by leaving their barracks more often than allowed. In 2013, the two-tier system was abolished.
North and South Korea are separated by a 4km (2.5-mile) wide strip of land, which runs along the length of their border, known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Both sides are fenced off with barbed wire and heavily armed.
Banner Art Paulo Correa