SEOUL, Oct. 7 (Yonhap) -- The defense ministry is not considering granting South Korean K-pop boy band BTS an exemption of mandatory military service, but a deferral could be an option, Defense Minister Suh Wook said Wednesday.
"Various social consensus should be formed, but at this stage, we are not considering an exception to the military duties," Suh told lawmakers during a parliamentary audit.
His remark came amid a growing debate over whether the seven-member group, with an unprecedented Billboard-topping hit, should warrant such special treatment for their worldwide achievements.
Suh said that the ministry may be able to look into the option of allowing a postponement of their enlistment.
"Considering the period of time of their performances and their career, I believe that a deferral might be worth considering," he added.
Talk of the possible military duty exemption for BTS gained traction after a ruling party lawmaker advocated the idea in media, citing the exemption granted for South Korean footballer Son Heung-min of the English Premier League's Tottenham Hotspur.
Son secured an exemption in September 2018, when the Korean national team defeated Japan to win the gold medal at the Asian Games.
All able-bodied South Korean men between the ages of 18 and 28 are ordered to serve in the military for about two years for defense against North Korea.
No prominent pop celebrities have been exempted.
By law, the country's military offers special treatment, such as exemptions or deferrals, to international award-winning athletes and classical musicians for their roles in elevating the country's overseas reputation.