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By Hyunsu Yim

SEOUL (Reuters) – Jin, the oldest member of K-pop phenomenon BTS, was discharged from the South Korean army on Wednesday after 18 months of service, the first member of the group to complete his mandatory military service that put his music career on hold.

Jin, 31, wearing his army uniform and a black beret, appeared emotional as he hugged his colleagues at a military base in Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi province, television footage showed.

South Korean media reported that several other members of the septet who currently serve in the military had requested leave to celebrate the occasion.

Among them was rapper RM, who greeted Jin with a saxophone to play the group’s hit single “Dynamite.”

Jin was the first group member to join the military in December 2022. The final four members of the group began their service in December 2023, and the band is expected to reunite in 2025 after everyone has completed their service.

Jin plans to begin his post-army activities with an event in Seoul on Thursday, where he will greet fans and make an hour-long performance as part of the annual FESTA honoring BTS.

The group debuted on June 13, 2013, and has since become the face of K-pop, South Korea’s pop music industry, one of the country’s biggest cultural exports.

Hundreds of thousands of people watched the live streams of Jin’s discharge from the military on YouTube.

South Korea requires all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 28 to serve in the military or social service for between 18 and 21 months. However, the law was revised in 2020 so that globally known K-pop stars can only do their military service from the age of 30.

(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim; Editing by Josh Smith and Jamie Freed)

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