By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, Nov. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's defense ministry stressed the need Thursday for "prudence" in considering whether to allow active-duty military service exemptions for K-pop superstar BTS and other top artists, citing the nation's shrinking population and other factors.
Boo Seung-chan, the ministry's spokesperson, made the remarks as the National Assembly has been deliberating on a revision bill aimed at allowing male artists who have contributed to national interests to work in fields of their specialty for 34 months under an alternative program that would exempt them from mandatory active-duty service.
All able-bodied South Korean men are to serve in the military for about two years. But only global award-winning athletes and classical musicians have been granted a waiver in recognition of their role in promoting their country's image abroad.
"Regarding the revision bill, the defense ministry cannot help but consider situational variables. The one that we face at this very moment is the situation caused by the shrinking population," Boo told a regular press briefing.
"Secondly, there is also a need for social consensus. In other words, this is about a fair military service," he added, stressing the need to be "prudent."
Proponents of the revision bill argue BTS members and other globally acclaimed stars should be allowed to continue to work in their cultural spheres, especially after BTS recently became the first Asian act to win artist of the year at the American Music Awards.
A subcommittee of the parliament's national defense committee, meanwhile, discussed the revision bill earlier in the day but failed to make any progress in its deliberations.