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BuzzFix | BTS Blues: How ARMYs Plan to Wait For K-Pop Icons at 'Magic Shop' Till 2025

By: Shaoni Sarkar

Edited By: Anurag Verma


Last Updated: October 21, 2022, 08:14 IST


With BTS set for military service, ARMYs aren't going anywhere. (Photo: Reuters)

With BTS set for military service, ARMYs aren't going anywhere. (Photo: Reuters)

BTS ARMYs around the world share their thoughts on K-pop icons Jin, Suga, J-hope, RM, Jimin, V and Jungkook fulfilling mandatory military service as per South Korean policy.

“I’m not sure why, but one day my stress levels were up to 61 (as per my smartwatch) on a scale of 1 to 100. I was sweating profusely in the middle of the night, I didn’t know why I was so anxious, there was not a single thing on my mind, but I was feeling unsteady. I lay down and put on my headphones. I had listened to hardly five songs by BTS when my stress level was down to 11. I don’t know what underlying issue was being taken care of by their soothing voices but whatever it was, I was relieved that night to think that I at least have one thing to rely on in my life: BTS," shares 23-year-old Amrita Dhar, an HR professional.

Waiting at the Magic Shop

Most BTS fans- ARMYs- are aware that public perception has not been kind to them. Apart from the general condescension that fandoms face on social media, ARMYs have had to deal with the additional bigotry that comes their way because they ‘stan’ a South Korean boyband that eschews all notions of traditional masculinity. Most ARMYs, like Amrita, nurse a deeply personal connection with BTS’ Jin, Suga, J-hope, RM, Jimin, V and Jungkook. So when the news broke of BTS fulfilling mandatory military service as per South Korean policy, many ARMYs were in tears, feeling almost as if a “family member was going away".

Ikra, a class 12 student who runs a stan account, sent an email to herself:


“To my future self,

You did it! You’re still here for BTS, waiting for them patiently. With the hardships of life, while they were [serving in the] military.

The moment is here, they are here again for you, waiting for you in the MAGIC SHOP.


ikra 2022"

Ikra is now all set to push through with achieving goals for BTS and streaming their music to break records till 2025. Nowshin Nowal Mehek, an ARMY from Bangladesh, says: “It’s been 8 years of my new life with BTS and it still feels like yesterday that I started to stan them. I still wonder how it’s been 8 years… I now realise that I didn’t prioritise living before. But now, living has become worthy. I spend my days laughing with them, crying with them… I know now that if I don’t find anyone with me, it’s okay." They are both waiting at the Magic Shop, reposing their faith in the BTS song that goes: “Once you open the door and enter, this place will wait for you/It’s okay to believe Magic Shop that will comfort you."

ARMY vs Military

In no way were ARMYs blindsided by HYBE’s announcement. They have engaged with debates around South Korea’s mandatory military service policy for years now, and though they are unequivocally supportive of the decision BTS members have taken, many of them are critical of the policy. Although many foreign BTS fans have been, in the past, wary of speaking on BTS’ military enlistment as that might be interpreted as them speaking on behalf of the Korean people themselves, some of them spoke out against it in conversations with News18.

“At first I was a bit annoyed at the fact that BTS didn’t get exempted way earlier for all they’ve accomplished. They’re currently Korea’s biggest asset and would continue to be for a long time, so it’s confusing why there was so much controversy about it. However, I’m also American and my personal bias against the military makes it difficult for me to relate or fully know what Koreans’ stances are on militaries. But you have to realise it was the guys’ own decision, so after a few minutes, I joined in on the jokes," a Twitter stan account going by @_mieluv_ said.

At the heart of the raging debate over whether or not BTS should be exempted from mandatory military service lies a gamut of preliminary questions: what does it mean to have served one’s country? Could art qualify to do so? Could military service qualify? Whom, in fact, does one hope to serve when they set out to serve their country? Since when has the ruling class’ definition of national interest perfectly coincided with that of the masses?

Every physically fit South Korean male has to serve a minimum of 18 months in the military. The drafting begins when they turn 18, and can be pushed off till they turn 28. BTS were granted permission to postpone it till the age of 30. Jin is set to initiate the process at the age of 28. The South Korean Defense Ministry, however, has reportedly granted BTS members permission to perform in events designated for national interest during their period of service.

Global award-winning athletes and classical musicians recommended by the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism are granted permission to replace the military duty with alternative services in South Korea.

“I was extremely upset about the announcement," Amrita said. “I kept pondering over the reasons based on which all the seven members of BTS should have gotten the exemption. One justification that comes from the elderly conservatives is that BTS has done nothing for their countrymen so as to be eligible for the exemption that very famous doctors and athletes have received in the past. Such narrow-mindedness on their part prevents them from seeing that it was primarily BTS that put South Korea on the map [of the public pysche-scape]." She goes on to list BTS’ various accomplishments and philanthropic acts.

What do Korean people themselves think? Research company JOWON C&I conducted a poll in September, where majority of participants were found to be against exempting BTS from military enlistment, reported Koreaboo. Polls, obviously, are not the most trustworthy arbitrator on the pulse of a country, even if majority opinion could accurately represent the cause of the masses. This brings us to the question: what do BTS members think?

BTS’ Voice

Jin said earlier in October that the band had entrusted all decisions regarding enlistment to HYBE, their management agency. He also explained that, as stated by BTS members previously, they would be happy to respond to the “call of duty when the nation calls them".

BTS’ messaging in their music might be interpreted as painting a different picture. ‘What Do You Think’, written by Agust D, EL CAPITXN, GHSTLOOP, for instance, mentions the military enlistment. The lyrics as per translation on the ‘doolset lyrics’ blog go: “We’ll go serve in the military when the time comes/ I hope all those ba****ds who tried to get a free ride by selling our names shut their mouths up." There are some distinctly anti-establishment themes. Consider for instance ‘Isn’t It Strange’ which goes: “A big system that’s called the world/They insert conflicts, wars, or survivals/Life you can’t reject/Capital injects morphine called hope with dream as collateral."

ARMYs and Art

Pop artists inspire the majority of public imagination to the extent that they are extremely lucrative financially. This does nothing to fend off the global intelligentsia’s mistrust of such artists. This school believes art is an exercise in pure intellect. If the real value of art does lie in its critical purpose, BTS’ music meets that criterion. To the lazy consumer of music with Eurocentric ideals, BTS’ political messaging as well as themes addressing philosophical concerns get lost in translation quite literally.

The second school believes art is a bridge that might effect social mobilisation. Music is a great equaliser- perhaps the greatest of all equalising artistic pursuits. BTS, in this regard, has supplied ARMYs from various socio-political backgrounds the common language of fandom-speak. Since the personal is political, this has meant that bridges have been built across communities. Though to the cynical and embittered, such displays of camaraderie might look naïve or meaningless, when someone tweets out, “canwe be friends i dont have army friends [sic]", the answer inevitably comes: “helo, yes we are friends now. [sic]"

As ARMYs wait it out at the Magic Shop, they may have found something bigger than BTS, bigger perhaps than even art itself: each other. Music is a community house, and who might dare deny comfort to people who have already found it?

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first published:October 21, 2022, 08:14 IST
last updated:October 21, 2022, 08:14 IST