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Suga to serve as social service agent, but what is it?

By Lim Jae-seong

Published : Dec. 13, 2022 - 17:03

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Photos showing a social service agent's uniform (Military Manpower Administration) Photos showing a social service agent's uniform (Military Manpower Administration)

BTS member Suga might serve his military duty as a social service agent, according to local news reports citing military officials.

Serving as a social service agent is an alternative form of military service in South Korea, for those deemed unfit to serve as soldiers in a military base due to a number of factors such as health, financial difficulties and family situation.

In the case of Suga, a shoulder injury from a traffic accident in 2012 is suspected to be the reason for his qualification.

Social service agents do not belong to the military, but serve in one of a broad array of government agencies and welfare institutes -- from schools and government buildings to local parking lots, nursing homes and subway stations.

The term of service is three months longer than the Korean Army – 21 months, including three weeks of basic military training.

As social service is often regarded as being less strenuous than serving as a soldier, the qualifications for serving as an agent have sometimes become the center of political scandal when it was given to sons of high-profile officials or politicians.

On the other hand, it is also debated whether social service can be regarded forced labor for people with health issues. Such forced labor is banned by the International Labor Organization’s fundamental conventions, which came into force in South Korea in April.

BTS’s label Big Hit Music showed no clear response to the reports.

“Those who qualify as social service agents can also serve as soldiers if they want,” a military official said in an interview with local media.

“It’s a matter in which the individual decides (whether or not he will serve as a soldier),” the official added.