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Sunday, April 14, 2024

EXO’s Kai to enlist for service next Thursday

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엑소 카이.
Kai from boy band EXO [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

Fans are usually given a heads up on when their idol stars will begin their mandatory military service, but fans of Kai from boy band EXO were shocked by the news announced by SM Entertainment on Wednesday that the 29-year-old star will begin serving the country from next week.

“Kai was preparing for EXO’s new release for later this year but due to the Military Manpower Administration’s [MMA] recent change of policy, Kai will be entering Korea Army Training Center on May 11 to receive his basic military training and proceed with serving as a social service agent,” SM Entertainment said Wednesday in a statement posted on Kwangya Club, the agency’s fan club site. “We will update on the planned EXO album as soon as they are rearranged.”

Fans who were shocked and upset by the announcement that EXO’s comeback would be delayed and that Kai will suddenly be leaving their side were ready to belch out their anger toward the MMA for making sudden changes in its policy.

However, the MMA refuted SM Entertainment’s statement on Thursday saying that there haven’t been any changes regarding enlistments, adding that regardless of their status, all those who are subject to serve the military are allowed to defer their enlistment up to five times depending on different reasons over the course of two years.

Kai receiving such a sudden enlistment notice would likely be because he has used up all his options.

SM Entertainment refused to make further comments when asked about making such a statement.

“If I’m honest, I’ve been preparing a lot [for the new release] and it’s a pity. Though I’m upset, I can show you guys what we have been preparing when I return [from my military service],” Kai said, shedding tears, through Instagram live stream Wednesday.

His agency said it will not disclose the time and location of his enlistment to respect Kai’s wish to “join the military boot camp quietly,” adding, “We hope the fans understand.”

The boy band recently held meet and greet events in April, shortly after member Baekhyun completed his military service and released a surprise teaser for their planned album release later this year.

The planned comeback would have been the boy band’s first album with all its eight Korean members in four years. The eight current members of EXO consist of Chanyeol, Chen, Sehun, Suho, Kai, D.O., Baekhyun and Xiumin. While Lay, the boy band’s last Chinese member did not officially leave the band, he announced that he did not extend his exclusive contract with SM Entertainment in 2022 and did not participate in group activities since.

In Korea, all young men are required to serve around one and a half years in the military unless determined unfit for service.

Men who get a lower grade on their physical evaluation can substitute their military service by serving as a social service agent at a public institution for 21 months unless they otherwise volunteer for active duty.

While the agency did not reveal the reason Kai is serving as a social service agent, fans have speculated that Kai’s disk herniation has likely caused him to be unsuitable for active duty.

Kai released “Rover” on March 13, his third EP following “KAI” (2020) and “Peaches” (2021).

BY CHO YONG-JUN [cho.yongjun1@joongang.co.kr]