BTS Entering The Military Could Impact The South Korean Economy

The news of BTS members preparing to enlist for mandatory military service in South Korea has left fans of the massively successful K-pop group heartbroken. However, it is not just a momentary loss for the entertainment industry; BTS’ absence due to military service is also set to have a negative impact on South Korea’s economy.

On October 17, the group’s agency, BigHit Music, announced that all seven members — Jin, RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, Jungkook and V — will be entering their military service, starting with Jin. The agency said that BTS will reconvene as a group in 2025, which means there will be no BTS shows or music until that time.

Because of their significant economic contribution, reports suggest that their absence, albeit brief, will result in a loss of billions of dollars for South Korea.


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How much does BTS contribute?

BTS members
Image credit: BTS_official/@bts_bighit/Twitter

According to Fortune, the Hyundai Research Institute had in 2018 estimated that the group was bringing in over USD 3.6 billion to the South Korean economy every year and generating USD 1.1 billion in consumer goods exports in a single year. According to the researchers, one in every 13 tourists arriving in South Korea was there because of BTS.

This report has been supported by others, too. In 2021, NPR’s Stacey Vanek Smith pointed out to Mary Louise Kelly that the popularity of BTS has resulted in an increased interest in everything Korean.

“BTS’s popularity is fuelling tourism to Korea, study of the Korean language, interest in Korean movies, television, fashion and food,” Vanek Smith said.

As per Vanek Smith, the total contribution of BTS to South Korea’s economy is an estimated USD 5 billion per year or “around half a percent of the country’s entire economy.”

Fortune also reports that analysts say that the group, which made its debut in 2013, would have contributed USD 29.4 billion to South Korea’s economy from 2014 to 2023 if it maintained its popularity. Needless to say, they kept surpassing every expectation of their fans year after year.

Of course, each of the seven members of the group is also individually wealthy. In 2020, Forbes estimated the net worth of BTS to be around USD 50 million.

Sales will continue

The enlistment of BTS was a major debate in South Korea, dividing both society and lawmakers. Under the country’s conscription system, all able-bodied men who are between 18 and 35 years of age must serve 18-21 months in the military.

On the day when the announcement of BTS’ planned enlistment was made, shares of HYBE, the parent company of BigHit Music, slumped by a few percentage points. But by the next day, shares rose by as much as 7.8 percent.

This, according to Reuters, was partly because it brought an end to the anxiety around the subject and because BTS’ military service as a group is set to end relatively quickly in 2025.

The other reason, as told to Reuters by Shinhan Investment Corp. analyst Ji In-hae, is sales.

“Sales from BTS will not disappear. Members’ individual activities, the release of content and photobooks already filmed and older album sales will be highly profitable,” Ji said, adding,  “However, with the biggest moneymaker absent, the key (for HYBE) will be how much sales are made from new businesses.”

(Main and Featured images: BTS_official/@bts_bighit/Twitter)

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Bangkok