Serving in the military is a duty that falls upon every able-bodied Korean male, but 73.9 percent of entertainers here have delayed enlistment, according to a local lawmaker.
Of the 794 male entertainers due for enlistment, 587 have yet to enlist, according to a statement released by Rep. Kim Hack-yong of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party Thursday.
The percentage of those putting off enlistment among entertainers was far higher than those in other fields of work. The figure was 43.3 percent among athletes and 47.5 percent among public servants. About 44 percent of those in the high-income group -- those with annual income of over 500 million won ($ 441,618) -- were found to be postponing their enlistment.
Kang Ha-neul (SEM Company)
Lee Min-ho (MYM Entertainment)
Although it is customary for Korean males to enlist in their early 20s, most celebrities start their military service in their late 20s or early 30s. This gives them time to establish a name for themselves before the two-year hiatus.
Among the K-celebrities pushing back the enlistment date, 77 were with YG-related companies. Fifty of them were affiliated with modeling agency YG KPlus while 27 have contract with YG Entertainment.
FNC Entertainment had 32 of its celebrities delaying military service, while Liveworks Company and Starship Entertainment followed with 24 each.
YG’s 30-year-old rapper T.O.P. started his trouble-ridden military service earlier this year -- marked by being dismissed from his original duties as conscripted policeman for smoking marijuana -- and his Big Bang bandmates are also due to start their duties in the near future.
Fellow K-pop star Kyuhyun of Super Junior, actors Lee Min-ho, Joo-won, Kang Ha-neul, who are all in their late 20s or early 30s, enlisted in the military this year.
Although most celebrities delay joining the military for as long as possible, draft dodging has been a career-ender in the country where service is mandated for half of the population.
In the early 2000s, then-K-pop superstar Steven Yoo -- known then as Yoo Seung-jun -- saw his career crumble after he flip-flopped on his word that he would serve in the military and then acquired US citizenship.
Rapper MC Mong, while cleared by court of draft-dodging charge -- saw his popularity take a severe hit amid suspicion that he had teeth extracted to be exempt for military duties.
Conscription law was recently revised to separately monitor military duties of celebrities, athletes, high-income citizens, public servants of level 4 or above and their children. The law previously only monitored military duties of level 1 public servants and their children.
The revision takes effect on Friday.
“For a long time, the public has been suspicious over military duties of celebrities or athletes. I hope that the law revision will motivate them to responsibly fulfill their military duties,” said Rep. Kim.
By Yoon Min-sik
Kang Ha-neul / SEM Company
Lee Min-ho / MYM Entertainment