Yeoncheon: 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.
Jin, 30, will spend 18 months in uniform after crossing into the Yeoncheon army base in northern Gyeonggi province, where security staff and the media outnumbered a few hundred fans who had gathered to catch a glimpse of the star, ignoring his earlier pleas for them to stay away.
A motorcade of six black vans, which was assumed to carry Jin and his security staff, entered the base shortly before 2 p.m.
Numerous banners along the roadway 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 conscripts joining the 5th Infantry Division Tuesday was Kim Seok-jin, 20, from Daejon – who shares the same full name as the superstar recruit.
Waiting outside a restaurant across from the base with his parents, Kim showed off his new buzz haircut – the same style Jin had gotten a few days earlier – and said he was nervous as he waited to go inside. “But I’m excited too to go in with Jin,” adding that he hoped they might become friends.
Military service is compulsory in South Korea, where almost all able-bodied men are required to serve in the army for 18 months by the time they are 28 years old.
South Korea’s parliament passed a bill in 2020 allowing pop stars namely those who “excel in popular culture and art” to defer their service until the age of 30.
In October, BTS’ record label said that all seven members of the group were planning to undertake military service. BTS is expected to reconvene 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 a unit, based on standard practice.