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8-7-2014 1-28-48 PM

Should Korean Stars Have to Serve in the Military?

There’s some heated talk going on within the ranks of the Korean netizenry that entertainers serving their required military service should no longer receive preferential treatment and the government is promising to give it a ‘top to bottom’ review.

According to the Korea Times, the stink arose after ‘two ‘entertainment soldiers’ visited adult establishments while on duty.’

Though the phrasing makes the two sound like a couple of camouflaged-draped Chippendale Dancers giving away freebees in a pub, it was actually K-Pop crooners Seven and Sangchoo, both currently serving in the military, dropping in to an, ahem, massage parlor at around 3 a.m. last week.

Besides the obvious transgression of throwing away all that hard work, plastic surgery and precision choreography to end up paying for some lovin’, the larger issue being discussed is whether entertainers should be required to do their military time like everybody else does.

As one netizen was quoted in the KT story:

 If ordinary conscripts committed the same offence, they would be dragged to a military court and face heavy punishments. It is outrageous that they forgot their position as military servicemen; but the ministry only protects them.

Yeah, these two definitely blew it —this isn’t like Rain running off to court actress Kim Tae-hee while on duty last January— this is for allegedly paying for sex past curfew.

Under the current system, Seven and Sangchoo should rightly be punished like any other soldier —though this is unlikely considering a military ministry official has already covered for the pair saying they were receiving ‘knee therapy.’

That the ministry is protecting them when they are the ones that compelled them to serve in the first place makes complete sense from a PR standpoint. They covered for Rain too, saying that three different commanders gave him a total of seventeen ‘reward break’ days.

In the end, after a public outcry, Rain was punished with seven days room confinement. And that was for a guy following his heart, not two guys following their…

Perhaps it’s not a question of whether big stars should receive special treatment and then be covered for by the ministry after they screw up, but whether they should even be serving in the military at all.

There is a fair and reasonable argument for the ‘universality of law’, but it’s hard not to argue that these ‘entertainment soldiers’ often end up causing more trouble than their worth anyway.

It’s safe to say that high-profile entertainers are not ‘ordinary’ citizens. I mean, who contributes more to the country and its coffers? The so called ‘ordinary’ guy slogging his way through daily drills or a guy like Rain who serves by bringing in big bucks, the spotlight and international acclaim?

Not to take anything away from us average Joes, but it is what it is.

The question is not whether big stars should get special treatment and then be covered for by the ministry after they screw up, but whether they should even be serving in the military at all. These ‘entertainment soldiers’ often end up causing more trouble than their worth anyway.

Perhaps the government should set up something similar to the World Cup exemption for entertainers. It could possibly be based on YouTube hits for music, ticket sales for movies and ratings for TV.

Maybe set it up as a multi-tiered system: So, you’re not quite such a big star? Then you follow the current system –do the ‘entertainment soldier’ routine, perform for the troops and have access to decent food. Score a couple of big hits and international concert tours? Increase the number of tourists coming to see where you hang out? Keep doing what you’re doing son, your country needs you.

There is no doubt that Korea needs soldiers at the ready while technically still at war with the North, but we’re talking about such a miniscule percentage of the population that a few exemptions won’t really matter. And again, these ‘entertainment soldiers’ are often a PR nightmare for the military anyway.

While there will likely be little, if any, change taking place in the current system (Seven and Sangchoo will probably just get a slap on the knee), it could very easily be argued that it’s a problem for Korean males across the board —be it someone’s brilliant research or job-creating entrepreneurship suddenly interrupted and inevitably dampened when being plucked out of their field for two years to serve in the military.

It’s people like these —the less than ordinary— that require consideration be given for a system that exempts those that make their mark and serve their country in highly significant ways.

We can start with this kid here.




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