‘Sense of pride’ in BTS ARMY as K-pop stars head for military service

Special ‘Sense of pride’ in BTS ARMY as K-pop stars head for military service
Fans of BTS gather outside Monumental Stadium to listen to Kim Seok-jin, aka Jin, perform his solo single ‘The Astronaut’ accompanied by Coldplay, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct. 28, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 09 November 2022

‘Sense of pride’ in BTS ARMY as K-pop stars head for military service

‘Sense of pride’ in BTS ARMY as K-pop stars head for military service
  • Big Hit Music label says band set to reconvene as group ‘around 2025’
  • Oldest BTS member Jin expected to enlist before turning 30 in December

JAKARTA: After uncertainty over the prospect of mandatory military service for the world’s biggest K-pop band, BTS fans were filled with pride and optimism as they looked ahead to what the next few years would bring for each of the group’s members.

All South Korean men are required to enlist by the age of 28 and must serve for a minimum of 18 months.

BTS’ oldest member, Kim Seok-jin, known as Jin, was initially set to conscript by December 2020, but the South Korean government created a new exception just three days before the artist’s 28th birthday.

The so-called BTS Law allows K-pop stars, who are significant contributors to the country’s economy and have been awarded the Hwagwan Order of Cultural Merit, to postpone their service until the age of 30.

Jin is expected to enlist before he turns 30 on Dec. 4 and in late October released his solo single “The Astronaut,” co-written by British rock band Coldplay, in a farewell to fans.

Other members of the band, who are also in their late 20s, are expected to soon follow in his footsteps.

Their label, Big Hit Music, has announced that the septet will reconvene “as a group again around 2025” after completing military service. Until then, some of its members will pursue solo projects.

Millions of dejected BTS fans, known as ARMY, have been expressing their grief on social media, but many also believe that this will be a chance for the band to grow as artists.

“When I got to know BTS will go to do their military service, I felt a bit of relief,” Alice Kim, a 28-year-old ARMY member from Gyeonggi-do province in South Korea, told Arab News.

“It is sad that we are not likely to get a new BTS album in the next few years. However, it is exciting to see them pursuing their solo careers. We are ready to appreciate their works as solo artists.”

Also known as the Bangtan Sonyeondan, or Bulletproof Boy Scouts, the K-pop group debuted in 2013 and is now one of the music industry’s most profitable set of artists.

They have risen to global fame and influence in the last decade with their upbeat hits and social campaigns aimed at empowering the younger generation.

“In my opinion, BTS will grow and develop as an artist during the next few years,” Kim said. “I will keep an eye on them and happily see how they become great artists.”

Aparmita Das, a 27-year-old ARMY member from Meghalaya in northeast India, said the boys’ news of enlistment had “filled all ARMYs with a deep sense of pride.”

“We are all heartbroken but at the same time proud, hopeful, and excited about each member’s solo projects. 2025 is not far away,” Das told Arab News.

“BTS is one, but they are also seven distinct individuals, each with their own personalities, and they must each discover their particular skills, interests, and dislikes.”

Others, such as Jakarta-based ARMY member Agnes Anya, are going to spend the period the superstars will be performing their military service on saving money to watch them live as soon as they reunite.

“Right now, me and my ARMY friends are saving up together,” she said.

“Our aim is to give each other peer pressure to save up enough money to watch BTS together in Korea in 2025.”

Humza Yousaf becomes Scotland’s first Muslim leader

Humza Yousaf, the first Muslim leader of a major UK political party, faces an uphill battle to bring Scotland independence
Humza Yousaf, the first Muslim leader of a major UK political party, faces an uphill battle to bring Scotland independence
Updated 52 min 34 sec ago

Humza Yousaf becomes Scotland’s first Muslim leader

Humza Yousaf, the first Muslim leader of a major UK political party, faces an uphill battle to bring Scotland independence
  • Glasgow-born Yousaf took oath in English and Urdu when first elected to Scottish Parliament in 2011
  • Yousaf vowed in victory speech Monday to deliver independence in this generation

EDINBURGH: Humza Yousaf, the first Muslim leader of a major UK political party, faces an uphill battle to revive Scotland’s drive for independence following the long tenure of his close ally Nicola Sturgeon.
The new and youngest Scottish National Party (SNP) leader, 37, says his own experience as an ethnic minority means he will fight to protect the rights of all minorities.
The Glasgow-born Yousaf took his oath in English and Urdu when he was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2011, before progressing to become the first Muslim to serve in the devolved government’s cabinet.
He has been hailed by his supporters as a polished communicator who can unite the party as support stagnates for the SNP’s central policy — independence for Scotland.
Despite the UK government’s opposition to a new referendum, and a Supreme Court setback, Yousaf vowed in his victory speech Monday to deliver independence in this generation.
And, as his wife and mother brushed away tears, he paid tribute to his paternal grandparents after they came to Scotland from Pakistan in the 1960s barely speaking English.
They would not have imagined “in their wildest dreams” that their future grandson would become the leader of their adopted homeland.
“We should all take pride in the fact that today we have sent a clear message: that your color of skin or indeed your faith is not a barrier to leading the country that we all call home,” Yousaf said.
He also vowed to be his own man as Scotland’s first minister. But far from running away from Sturgeon’s controversial record, he also says he will keep his experienced predecessor on “speed dial” for advice.
That has fed into critics’ portrayal of Yousaf as a political lightweight who will remain in thrall to Sturgeon’s camp.
At the same time, he is promising a more collegial style of leadership. “Mine would be less inner circle and more big tent,” he told LBC radio.
With the independence push stymied for now, following Sturgeon’s more than eight-year tenure as first minister, Yousaf takes over facing crises in health care and education under the SNP’s own watch in Scotland.
His record as Sturgeon’s minister for justice and health care was savaged on the campaign trail by his chief rival, Kate Forbes, and Yousaf must also heal a fractured party after its bruising leadership election.
Yousaf says he was toughened after facing racist abuse growing up in Glasgow, especially after the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
“I’ve definitely had tough times,” he recalled, reflecting on his time in politics.
“I’ve thought to myself, ‘goodness, is there more that I can take personally’ because I also come under a tremendous amount of abuse online and, unfortunately, sometimes face to face.”
Yousaf’s Pakistani-born father forged a successful career in Glasgow as an accountant. The new SNP leader’s mother was born into a South Asian family in Kenya.
Yousaf attended an exclusive private school in Glasgow, two years behind Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.
He studied politics at Glasgow University, and worked in a call center before becoming an aide to Sturgeon’s predecessor as SNP leader and first minister, Alex Salmond.
Yousaf entered the Scottish cabinet in 2012, serving in various roles including justice, transport and most recently health.
He married former SNP worker Gail Lythgoe in 2010, but they divorced seven years later.
In 2021 he and his second wife Nadia El-Nakla launched a legal complaint against a nursery, accusing it of racial discrimination after it denied admission to their daughter.
The complaint was upheld by education inspectors but the couple have now dropped it, and the nursery denied the accusations.
He was accused of deliberately skipping a Scottish vote to legalize gay marriage in 2014, due to pressure from Muslim leaders.
Yousaf insisted he had a prior engagement, and contrasts his own record to Forbes’ religiously conservative views as a member of a Scottish evangelical church.
He says he will “always fight for the equal rights of others” and not legislate based on his own faith.
But one person’s constitutional position will not be protected in a Yousaf-led Scotland — that of King Charles III.
“I’ve been very clear, I’m a republican,” he told Scottish newspaper The National, calling for debate on whether Scotland should move to an elected head of state.

Kremlin denies Turkish media reports of planned Putin visit to Ankara

Kremlin denies Turkish media reports of planned Putin visit to Ankara
Updated 27 March 2023

Kremlin denies Turkish media reports of planned Putin visit to Ankara

Kremlin denies Turkish media reports of planned Putin visit to Ankara

MOSCOW: The Kremlin on Monday denied Turkish reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin was planning to visit the Turksih capital, Ankara.

Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported on Monday that the deputy foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey, Iran and Syria may hold consultations in Moscow in early April.

Police fire tear gas as fresh protests erupt in Kenya despite ban

Police fire tear gas as fresh protests erupt in Kenya despite ban
Updated 27 March 2023

Police fire tear gas as fresh protests erupt in Kenya despite ban

Police fire tear gas as fresh protests erupt in Kenya despite ban
NAIROBI: Police fired tear gas to disperse anti-government protests on Monday over the high cost of living, after the opposition vowed demonstrations would go ahead despite a police ban.
Security was tight, with riot police stationed at strategic points in Nairobi and patrolling the streets, while many shops were shut and train services from the capital’s outskirts into the central business district were suspended.
Veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga has urged people to take to the streets every Monday and Thursday, even after protests a week ago turned violent and paralyzed parts of Nairobi.
Police clashed with stone-throwing demonstrators in Nairobi’s largest slum Kibera, where protesters set tires on fire, defying a warning by the Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome who said Sunday that the rallies were “illegal” and would be banned.
The situation was calmer elsewhere in the city, with a heavy police presence in neighborhoods where protests had taken place last week.
During last Monday’s clashes in Nairobi and opposition strongholds in western Kenya, a university student was killed by police fire while 31 officers were injured as running battles erupted between riot police and demonstrators.
More than 200 people were arrested, including several senior opposition politicians, while protesters — as well as Odinga’s own motorcade — were hit with tear gas and water cannon.

It was the first major outbreak of political unrest since President William Ruto took office more than six months ago after defeating Odinga in an election his rival claims was “stolen.”
Despite the police ban, Odinga called Sunday on Kenyans to join what he has described as “the mother of all demonstrations.”
“I want to tell Mr.Ruto and the IG Koome that we are not going to be intimidated,” he said. “We are not going to fear tear gas and police.”
Odinga also accused Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua of orchestrating an operation to cause “mayhem” at Monday’s rallies.
Nairobi residents were wary after the previous violence.
“I may have to close too because I have seen most of my neighbors are closed,” said Mercy Wangare, an Mpesa (mobile money) kiosk attendant at an electronics shop.
“I am just weighing the situation before I decide because the sight of these policemen patrolling around is a sign that it may not end up well.”
The Communications Authority of Kenya has sought to prevent television stations from broadcasting the demonstrations live, but the move was blocked by the High Court.

Ruto, who is currently on a four-day trip to Germany and Belgium, has urged his rival to halt the action.
“I am telling Raila Odinga that if he has a problem with me, he should face me and stop terrorizing the country,” he said Thursday.
“Stop paralysing the businesses of mama mboga, matatu and other Kenyans,” he said, referring to women stallholders and private minibus operators.
Many Kenyans are struggling to put food on the table, battling high prices for basic goods as well as a plunging local currency and a record drought that has left millions hungry.
“If the leaders don’t talk, it is us who are affected. They are rich people, it is who will sleep hungry,” motorcycle taxi driver Collins Kibe told AFP.
During the election campaign, Ruto portrayed himself as champion of the downtrodden and vowed to improve the lot of ordinary Kenyans.
But critics say he has broken several campaign promises and has removed subsidies for fuel and maize flour — a dietary staple.
Demonstrators in Kibera, an Odinga stronghold, on Monday banged empty pots and pans as they faced off against police, chanting “we don’t have maize flour.”
Kenya’s energy regulatory body has also announced a hike in electricity prices from April, despite Ruto insisting in January there would be no such increase.
Last week’s protests proved costly, with Gachagua saying the country had lost at least $15 million.
Police said Friday they had launched a manhunt for suspects involved in last week’s riots, and published photographs showing people throwing rocks at police, burning tires and vandalising property.
But an AFP Fact Check investigation found that a number of the photographs were old and unrelated to Monday’s events.
And on Saturday, a red-faced Directorate of Criminal Investigations issued an apology on Twitter for what it said was a “mix-up of images.”

Taiwan’s former leader Ma begins China visit

Taiwan’s former leader Ma begins China visit
Updated 27 March 2023

Taiwan’s former leader Ma begins China visit

Taiwan’s former leader Ma begins China visit
  • The ex-president is visiting in a private capacity

TAOYUAN: Former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou departed for a 12-day tour of China Monday, a day after Taiwan lost another of its 14 diplomatic partners to China.
The ex-president is visiting in a private capacity, bringing a delegation of academics and college students for exchanges, as well as members of his family, but the trip is loaded with political meaning.
Ma’s policies brought Taiwan and Beijing to their closest relationship ever, but his exit from office was overshadowed by massive protests against a trade deal with the mainland and his successor has focused on defending the autonomy of the democratically-governed island that China claims as part of its own territory.
Ma’s visit comes amid rising tensions. Beijing has exerted a long-standing campaign of pressure against Taiwan, poaching its diplomatic allies while also sending military fighter jets flying toward the island on a near daily basis. On Sunday, Honduras established diplomatic relations with China, leaving Taiwan with only 13 countries that recognize it as a sovereign state.
Ma, a member of the opposition Nationalist Party (Kuomingtang), will land in Shanghai before starting his visit in nearby Nanjing. He is expected to tour the mainland from March 27 to April 7, stopping in Wuhan and Changsha, as well as other cities. He is bringing college students from Taiwan to meet with fellow students from Shanghai’s Fudan University and Changsha’s Hunan University.
Ma has framed the visit as a bid to lower the tensions in cross-strait relations through people to people exchange. “I hope through the enthusiasm of the youth and their interactions to improve the cross-strait mood, so bring peace faster, and earlier,” he said to reporters ahead of his departure on Monday afternoon. He also said it would be his first time visiting China.
His trip has not drawn much controversy in Taiwan, where the public is used to seeing Kuomingtang politicians visit China. However, it has been criticized by some political opponents and activists.
A former mainland student leader in the 1989 Tiananmen square protests called on Ma to cancel his trip. “If you have even a strand of affection for Taiwan ... you should announce the cancelation of your trip,” said Wang Dan, a Chinese dissident who previously lived in Taiwan, on his Facebook page.
A handful of protesters from a pro-independence group held a demonstration at the departures area at Taoyuan airport before Ma’s departure. “Ma Ying-jeou is humiliating our nation and forfeiting its sovereignty,” they shouted before police carried them out. “You are a stinky beggar.”
On the other side, a small group of people from the pro-unification camp also came to the airport to show their support. “Cross-strait relations are like flowers blossoming in spring and both sides are a family,” they shouted.
The trip is also a chance for him to honor his ancestors, ahead of Tomb Sweeping Day on April 5. During the festival, which is celebrated in Taiwan and China among other countries, families visit ancestral graves to maintain the burial grounds and remember the dead.
Ma will not go to Beijing, but may meet with Chinese officials.
Ma met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore in 2015, while he was still in office. The meeting was the first between the leaders of the two sides since Taiwan split from mainland China in 1949 during the Chinese civil war, but was considered more symbolic than substantive.
In 2016, the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party won national elections and Beijing cut off contact with Taiwan’s government, citing President Tsai Ing-wen’s refusal to endorse the idea that Taiwan and China are one country.

Myanmar junta chief vows continued crackdown, then elections

Myanmar junta chief vows continued crackdown, then elections
Updated 27 March 2023

Myanmar junta chief vows continued crackdown, then elections

Myanmar junta chief vows continued crackdown, then elections
  • Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government
  • Min Aung Hlaing: Military will take ‘decisive action’ against opponents and ethnic rebels supporting them

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: Flanked by tanks and missile launchers, Myanmar’s junta chief Monday vowed no letup in a crackdown on opponents and insisted the military would hold elections — weeks after admitting it did not control enough territory to allow a vote.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government over two years ago after making unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud.
The putsch sparked renewed fighting with ethnic rebels and birthed dozens of anti-junta “People’s Defense Forces” (PDFs), with swathes of the country now ravaged by fighting and the economy in tatters.
The military will take “decisive action” against its opponents and ethnic rebels supporting them, Min Aung Hlaing told an audience of around 8,000 service members attending the annual Armed Forces Day parade in the military-built capital Naypyidaw.
“The terror acts of NUG and its lackey so-called PDFs need to be tackled for good and all,” he said, referring to the “National Unity Government,” a body dominated by ousted lawmakers working to reverse the coup.
The junta would then hold “free and fair elections” upon the completion of the state of emergency, he said.
Last month, the military announced an extension of a two-year state of emergency and postponement of elections it had promised to hold by August, as it did not control enough of the country for a vote to take place.
“Serenity and stability are vital” before any election could go ahead, Min Aung Hlaing told the parade.
Planes flew overhead spewing smoke in the yellow, red and green of the national flag and a flight of five Russian-made Sukoi Su-30 jets roared past.
Women lined the streets leading to the parade ground to garland marching soldiers with flowers, images on state media showed.
Armed Forces Day commemorates the start of local resistance to the Japanese occupation during World War II, and usually features a military parade attended by foreign officers and diplomats.
Two years after the coup, the situation in Myanmar is a “festering catastrophe,” United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk said earlier this month, adding that the military was operating with “complete impunity.”
More than 3,100 people have been killed in the military’s crackdown on dissent since the coup, according to a local monitoring group.
More than a million people have been displaced by fighting, according to the UN.
In December, the junta wrapped up a series of closed-court trials of Suu Kyi, jailing her for a total of 33 years in a process rights groups have condemned as a sham.