South Korea: Military Service Doesn’t End for Entertainment

Entertainment agencies in South Korea attended a specialized meeting conducted by The Military Manpower Administration (MMA) to assist with the celebrities’ military duties to the country.

On July 18, 2019, the military manpower agency hosted a meeting to notify agencies about how their clients and workers can fulfill the nation’s military service obligation. The requirement states that all South Korean men, who are able-bodied, must serve in the military for about two years.

The MMA has composed a list of about 35,00 potential draftees who are considered “at higher risk of draft dodging.” This list is not only limited to celebrities such as athletes and entertainers, but children of high-income earners and senior public officials as well. 

The administration explained that the session was for them to be transparent about regulations related to the draft system, in particular, how to defer enlistment and travel abroad.

This operation is reactionary following the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn the entry ban against Korean-American singer Steve Yoo (also known as Yoo Seung-jun). Yoo was a popular singer who was born in South Korea and eventually moved to the United States. In 2002, he renounced his Korean nationality and claiming his citizenship in the United States. Following this, the justice ministry barred him from re-entering the country.

However, in 2015, the K-pop artist filed a lawsuit after being rejected for an F-4 visa by the Korean consulate general in Los Angeles. The visa is for ethnic Koreans who have foreign citizenship. The lower courts ruled against Yoo saying if he was allowed to re-enter the country as an active celebrity “it will lower the morale of conscripted soldiers and could encourage young men to dodge their military duty.” 

The top court ruled in favor of Yoo on the government ban because of his failure to “perform his mandatory military service” did not comply with administrative procedures. The Supreme Court cited that “the consulate general had the discretionary power to consider various factors when deciding on visa issuance” but only looked into the ministry’s ban. 

Also, the higher court says that the consulate general did not follow protocol with notify Yoo. The consulate general only informed him via phone, not with a written decision.

Therefore, the Military Manpower Administration continues to stop attempts of military evasion. This Thursday’s meeting had 100 entertainment agencies in attendance. The MMA said that they plan to conduct 15 more sessions through October that will expand to 2,200 other management entities.

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