The majority of Korean men have to serve two years in the Korean military. Refusal to serve or attempting to avoid service, typically, leads to a jail sentence.
The situation, in the past, was a little less burdensome for the rich, connected and for entertainers (singers, actors etc.). The situation is changing. Many of rich and connected that have attempted to avoid military service have been prosecuted and now entertainers will, also, have to serve in a fashion typical to all other men in Korea.
Some Entertainers, previously, served in a special unit called, “Volunteered Public Relations of the National Defense (국방홍보지원대).” The soldiers in this Unit are, often, referred to as “Entertainment Soldiers (연예병사).” This “Military” Unit consists, mainly, of male celebrities whose purpose is to entertain other military units and sometimes the public. However, with the recent scandals involving soldiers, the Ministry of National Defense decided to abolish the Unit.
Last month, after a performance for fellow soldiers, eight Entertainment Soldiers decided to entertain themselves at a drinking establishment. After drinking, two of the Entertainment Soldiers decided that a full-service massage was in order. Drinking on duty is violation of law and prostitution is a crime in Korea. The soldiers were, technically, on duty.
Possibly to avoid public scorn, the Ministry of National Defense has decided to abolish the Entertainment Soldier System. The soldiers assigned to these units will be reassigned to new units.
The Ministry of National Defense has vowed to punish the soldiers at the unit level.
By Andrew Yun
Sean Hayes may be contacted at: SeanHayes@ipglegal.com.
Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team at IPG Legal. He is the only non-Korean to have worked as an attorney for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty.
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