This is a bit of a controversial topic, since the issue of Korea’s mandatory military service always ruffles feathers, including those of people who are wholly unaffected by the law just as much as those who are. Like myself; I’m not a Korean male citizen, so I feel a need to be careful with my opinion, not out of fear of reprisal but out of respect for people who actually have to fulfill their “civic obligation.”
Back in 2003, singer Psy had qualified for special exemption, meaning he still had to perform his military service but in a different capacity, in a program that allowed him to stay out of regular active service. [Insert requisite outrage at celebrity special treatment here.] But after he had “served” 35 months and nearly completed his program by November 2005, it was discovered that he hadn’t quite actually done much participating in the program, which provoked massive public outrage. He’d already been given special status in a less-rigorous program (working a desk job), and on top of that, he hadn’t even done THAT properly?
His exemption was stripped and he had to face re-enlistment, this time to complete nearly two more years of regular active duty. Psy appealed, and lost his suit last week when it was judged that he “does not have sufficient grounds to qualify for exemption from service.” Today (the 17th), Psy re-enters service.
SONG OF THE DAY
Clazziquai – “Why.” Clazziquai’s just released their 3.5 album (the half being that it’s an album containing remixes of previously released tracks, like “Love Mode” and “Lover Boy,” as well as a few new ones). The album’s a little too poppy dancetronica for me — I prefer their mellower, trip-hoppy groove stuff — but it’s Clazziquai, so I can’t complain. [ zShare download ]
A number of stars have attempted to skirt their required service by claiming medical exemptions, and although a few are legitimate (Bae Yong Joon, I believe, is one example), many are just last-ditch attempts to dodge enlistment. Song Seung Heon, Han Jae Seok, and Jang Hyuk garnered widespread criticism and disgust with their attempts to get out of service (forging medical excuses), but eventually came back into public favor by fulfilling their military service.
Jang Hyuk had a great year with the hit drama Thank You, Han Jae Seok is in the current high-budget Lobbyist, and Song Seung Heon’s battered image has made a rather springy recovery as his next project comes highly anticipated. On the other hand, let’s not get into the ugly details of how pop singer Yoo Seung Jun killed his career. (Personally I think the guy kinda got the shaft, but people loves thems their scapegoats, and the irrefutable fact is that his career, once hot stuff, is now dead in the water.)
Song Seung Heon, Han Jae Seok, Jang Hyuk
PUTTING ASIDE the argument of whether the mandatory military service is a problematic institution (many wouldn’t have a problem arguing the system needs radical change), the outrage this issue sparks isn’t so much about whether military service is valid. It’s about celebrities thinking they’re above the law and somehow not being subject to the same requirements of normal citizens. It’s flawed rhetoric to argue that “the system’s stupid so cut the guy some slack for trying to get out of it” (which is an opinion I’ve seen quite a bit of, surprisingly). A lot of people WISH they could pull off what Psy attempted, had they the right connections or sufficient cachet. And even though many Korean males are resentful of the obligation, particularly since there’s no female equivalent, they’re even more resentful when other fellow men shirk. Whatever the politics of the situation, the fact is, Psy tried to cheat and now he’s got to pay for it.
What remains to be seen is whether his reputation will be as resilient as other draft-dodgers like Song Seung Heon and Jang Hyuk. Despite the amount of hate engendered by such incidents, the public tends to be rather forgiving once the service has been completed. Maybe they figure two years of active duty is punishment enough.