Korean singers accused of weight gain to avoid military duty
Posted On July 17, 2020
Twelve South Korean music students have been accused of conspiring to gain weight to avoid compulsory military service. The authorities said that the students, who have not been named, discussed on a social media messaging app how to rapidly bulk up as a way of failing the army’s medical examination.
According to the Korea Herald, they ate high calorie foods like pizza and hamburgers five times a day, with one gaining 30kg in just six months.
The men, all vocalists who attended the same college, also reportedly debated eating “high calorie protein shakes, supplements and drinking a lot of aloe juice to retain water weight.” Some suggested acting “crazy” on purpose.
All able-bodied South Korean men aged 18-35 must serve for at least 21 months in the army, as part of Seoul’s defence strategy against the military threat from North Korea.
However, those who fail conscription requirements including body mass index and an eyesight test, can be reassigned to less a taxing community service.
Conscientious or religious objection is not recognised, however, and at least 400 people are imprisoned every year for refusing on those grounds. Fleeing the country, causing self-injury, or otherwise cheating to avoid conscription is also illegal under South Korean law.
Commenting on the case, the Military Manpower Administration, said that it would thoroughly investigate and “do our best to root out military service evasion crime and make an example of the violators so that a fair and just military service culture can take root,” reported CNN.
It is believed the students feared that their careers would be derailed by the long and gruelling national service and that social service duties would allow them more time to practice their singing.
Of the 12 accused, two have already completed an alternative service programme and four are still working in a community centre. If found guilty, they would be forced to do their military service.
The unusual case comes amid an ongoing parliamentary debate about who should be allowed to win exemptions from the compulsory duty in order to save their careers.
Currently elite medal-winning athletes and a select list of classical musicians and ballet dancers can be excused as they are deemed to be raising the national image on a global stage.
The South Korean men’s football team, including Son Heung-min, the Tottenham Hotspur forward, were granted a reprieve earlier this month after winning gold at the Asian Games.
But music fans and politicians argue that the rules are out-of-touch with modern South Korean society and should be updated to benefit celebrities of contemporary pop culture, including K-pop boy bands who are becoming increasingly popular on the international stage.