Marking the end of an era, the oldest member of K-pop sensation BTS, Kim Seok-jin, is starting his 18 month-long mandatory military service on Tuesday.
Jin, who turned 30 on December 4, is the oldest member of the BTS group and the first to enlist for military duty. His boot camp is located in a small town called Yeoncheon which lies close to the tense border with North Korea.
For the next five months Jin will be training at the boot camp and then be assigned to an army unit.
Posting a picture of his shaven head on BTS fan platform Weverse, he joked that it was "cuter" than he had imagined and wrote, "Now it's time for a curtain call."
A huge crowd gathered around the boot camp to bid Jin farewell despite cold weather.
"We ask you to keep your heart-warming words of support and farewell in your hearts," BTS' label Big Hit Music told fans last week.
About 300 security personnel were deployed to beef up security around the base on Tuesday.
BTS' enlistment sparks debate
The BTS in October announced a hiatus and said that they would sign up for mandatory military service, starting with Jin. In the coming years, the other six members will also join the military service.
The enrollment of the star band in military service has sparked a dialogue over the country's law mandating military enlistment. In South Korea, all able-bodied men are required by law to serve in the military for 18-21 months.
However, exemptions are granted to prominent athletes, classical and traditional musicians, and ballet and other dancers. Such exemptions have not been extended to K-pop stars.
The public opinion is divided on whether such exemptions be extended to cover K-pop stars or the exemptions be revoked for everyone.
mf/dj (AP, AFP, Reuters)