From Army to ARMY: BTS Star Completes Military Service in South Korea

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The mega-pop group’s oldest member thrilled his fans by giving 1,000 hugs to contest winners from near and far at a recent event in his home country.

That is a lot of hugs! Kim Seok-jin, known professionally as Jin, the oldest member of the hugely successful K-Pop group BTS, celebrated completing his mandatory military service by spending his day hugging 1,000 fans and performing at Seoul’s Jamsil Sports Complex. At the event, 1,000 lucky fans who won a raffle received hugs from the 31-year-old, while 4,000 select fans attended his performance.

Image Credit: BBC

Some BTS superfans, known as ‘ARMY’ (Adorable Representative MC for Youth), traveled from overseas to attend the BTS Festa event. South Korea’s compulsory military service requires nearly all able-bodied men to serve for 18 months by age 28. However, a 2020 law allowed major pop stars to defer service until 30. The other six BTS members are currently serving.

Mim Cheenchanya from Thailand, one of the lucky fans who won a hug, said in an interview with CNN that she cried tears of immense joy upon learning she had won. “I wish to tell Jin if he comes to Thailand, can he hold a concert for seven days, because I love BTS so much,” Cheenchanya said.

As Jin began giving out hugs, videos flooded social media, showing ecstatic fans receiving hugs on a purple stage. Many fans could be heard screaming, whooping, and crying.

Even those who didn’t win hugs were thrilled to be there. Holly Campbell from Melbourne, Australia, and Ashley Stoudnour from Florida told CNN they wouldn’t have missed the festival for anything. Although they entered the hug raffle, they weren’t successful. “Everybody here tried,” Campbell joked, wearing purple from her shiny boots to her lavender cap.

The first hugs went to Jin’s fellow BTS members | Image Credit: USA Today

Purple has become synonymous with BTS since member V described it as a symbol of the band’s long-lasting love for their fans. Since then, the color has appeared in many live performances, merchandise, and branded collaborations.

“BTS themselves pour out so much love – they put love into their music, into their personalities, their fans,” said Stoudnour. Flying thousands of miles to welcome Jin back was a way for fans to “give them love back,” she added, describing him as the “comedian of the group.”

Kim Yoon-jeong, another fan, said she cried all night after finding out she didn’t win a coveted seat or a hug but was still excited to support him. She showed off her artworks – digitally painted portraits of each BTS member – and tiny stuffed dolls of them, including one in a military uniform.

BTS member Jin leaves after being discharged from the military in South Korea on June 12, 2024 | Image Credit: Yonhap News Agency/Reuters

Michelle Pedraza, a fan from California who also missed out on a hug ticket, showed off her purple-dyed hair for the event. “No hug, but all of the air that he’s breathing, I’ll be breathing,” she joked, adding she’d probably be crying and screaming once he took to the stage.

The festival was bustling in the morning, with various activities and stalls – photo booths, bracelet-making, custom pins, BTS sticker shops, and more. Fans queued to enter, some enjoying snacks under the shade or using umbrellas to escape the heat.


BTS have become global superstars since debuting in 2013, earning No. 1 singles in over 100 countries and accumulating numerous accolades, including Billboard Music Awards, TIME magazine’s Entertainer of the Year award in 2020, and multiple titles at the 2021 American Music Awards. They were also the first K-Pop act to earn a Grammy nomination in 2021.

BTS are arguably the most successful K-Pop group in history | Image Credit: People

Beyond music, BTS members are fashion icons, as well, closely watched for their red carpet and music video attire. In 2021, Louis Vuitton named them brand ambassadors, dressing them in complementary suits for the 64th Grammy Awards. Dior outfitted them in custom stagewear for their 2019 tour, and individual members have starred in various luxury fashion campaigns.

The band’s hiatus due to military service has been looming for years. Jin was the first in the group to enlist at 30, and BTS is expected to reconvene around 2025.

Reporting from CNN and BBC contributed to this article.

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