BTS’s Jin starts military service in South Korea’s army



SEOUL — K-pop singer Jin, the oldest member of South Korean supergroup BTS, started his military service on Tuesday, becoming the first in the band to do so — much to the grief of millions of his fans — though few showed up to bid farewell.

Jin, whose real name is Kim Seok-jin, was driven straight into the military base, without stopping for a send-off, “in order to prevent any accident from crowding,” said his agency, HYBE. Fans obeyed the pleas of the band and avoided gathering for a send off.

Fearing the scene would be mobbed, authorities had set up a “situation room” to monitor any potential safety hazards and some 270 riot police were deployed. Tuesday’s rigorous safety measures come amid heightened awareness for crowd control in South Korea following a deadly Halloween crush in Seoul.

Ambulances were also on standby around the Key Recruit Training Center, where Jin entered boot camp at a front-line division in Yeoncheon county on the border with North Korea.

BTS’s Jin enlists: What to know about S. Korea’s mandatory military service

The enlistment of Korean celebrities often attracts fans and journalists trying to catch a glimpse of the stars before they leave the public eye for about two years. Scores of reporters and photographers were on hand to catch the star from early in the morning but only a few dozen well-wishers came after Jin told the “BTS Army” — the official name of the boy band’s millions-strong fan base — not to come.

Instead, the training center was surrounded with colorful banners rooting for the K-pop star, including one carried by giant balloons in the sky. “Kim Seok-jin, you’ve been a universe to us,” one of the banners read.

Enrollment day at a training center is usually busy with recruits and their families exchanging emotional goodbyes. The 30-year-old singer joins boot camp with a cohort of about 200 other conscripts, many of whom are younger than him.

All able-bodied South Korean men between the ages of 18 and 28 must serve at least 18 months in the country’s armed forces, but K-pop stars like Jin who are recognized by the government can defer their service until age 30.

The K-pop heartthrob sent social media abuzz earlier when he revealed his freshly shaved head. The South Korean army maintains rigid grooming standards, including hair length regulations. “It’s cuter than I thought,” he said in a message posted on the Weverse fan community on Sunday.

Jin will undergo a physically demanding five-week basic training course before being assigned to a military unit. Army trainees learn basic skills such as how to march, shoot guns and throw a grenade.

The six other members of BTS are expected to fulfill their draft obligations based on individual timelines. BTS, hailed as the world’s biggest boy band, plans to reconvene as a group in 2025 after they complete their service. They traveled to the border town of Yeoncheon with Jin to bid him farewell in person, according to HYBE.

Jin made his solo debut in October with the hit single “The Astronaut,” which sold more than a million copies.

On May 31 K-pop group BTS joined White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during a visit aimed at discussing inclusion and countering anti-Asian hate. (Video: The Washington Post)

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