Boyband BTS still have to do military service

South Korea's defense ministry says that superstar boyband BTS will not be given exemption from mandatory military service--

reaffirming its policy of no exceptions- even for K-pop stars.

The decision is likely to fuel debate in South Korea, about whether entertainers and athletes should have to do their full military service, of about 18 months, when they might be at the peak of their careers.

(SOUNDBITE) (Korean) SOUTH KOREA'S DEFENCE MINISTRY OFFICIAL, LEE NAM-WOO, SAYING:

"Based on public consensus, there have been some requests of expanding an exemption review to pop artists who have contributed a lot to the country's reputation. Considering the overall trend of reducing military exemption reviews as well as the government's stance to uphold justice and fairness for military service obligations, the exemption review (for pop artists) has been denied."

Authorities occasionally grants exemptions to athletes, but only if they have won gold medals at the Asian Games, or any medal at the Olympics.

Fewer than 45 people are exempt from service every year.

BTS has spearheaded a wave of Korean pop- with three No. 1 albums on the Billboard chart in less than a year and a 2019 Grammy nomination.