Jin (full name Kim Seok-jin) entered a military facility at Yeoncheon, near the frontier with North Korea, in the early afternoon in an unmarked car and with minimal fanfare.
Despite the undramatic scenes, Jin’s arrival at the base was greeted by hundreds of media and fans, sufficient that authorities set up their own camp to handle the crowds.
Jin had already said his goodbyes online. On Sunday he posted a picture of himself with a heavily cropped haircut. On Tuesday morning, he posted another message: “Now it’s time for curtain call,” borrowing a line from the “League of Legends” character with whom he shares a name.
The call-up temporarily reduces BTS to six members and begins to put the band on hiatus. Since the band announced a break in mid-year they have already appeared together less frequently and several members have begun solo ventures. Among the last full-scale BTS performances was a mid-October concert in Busan intended to help the city boost its campaign to host the World Expo.
Earlier in October, the band and their agency Hybe said that all the band members would enlist. It is now expected that the other group members will begin military service in turn. Korea requires all able-bodied men to serve 18-21 months in the military.
The October announcement put an end to years of speculation and political jostling over whether contemporary culture icons – and one of Korea’s biggest soft power icons – should be excused. In the past, exceptions have been made for classical musicians and for top athletes, but not for pop stars.
On Monday, it was announced that Korean cultural exports had reached a post-pandemic record. The Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), a government agency that oversees and coordinates the promotion of Korean content, said that Korean media companies had signed contracts worth over $63.6 million (KRW83.2 billion) this year. That was a more than 50% increase over 2021.