According to Korean military law, every male is required to serve in the military for a couple of years at some point. This includes male K-pop idols, which is sad news for a lot of the fans around the world. Today, we are going to explore which idols will be enlisting in 2020 and how you can be exempt from the military according to the military law, and more.
* Idols born in 1992 who will be enlisting in 2020
First, BTS Jin. Do you remember when the fans did a petition recently for BTS’s military exemption? Unfortunately, the Military Manpower Administration said no. BTS Jungkook actually said one time that he’d like to enlist along with fellow members of BTS at the same time, so I wonder how things will go down.
Other idols born in 1992 include B1A4 Sandeul, Infinite L, VIXX Ken, and MONSTA X Shownu.
There are many members in EXO who will be enlisting as well. Suho is already kind of old for the military service, but as he is currently in his Phd program in a graduate school, he was able to delay his enlistment, although he does have to enlist within this year.
Baekhyun, Chen, and Chanyeol were all born in 1992, and they are all planning to enlist in 2020. Xiumin and D.O. are already in the army.
* Why do Koreans have to serve in the military?
According to the Korean Constitution, it was 1951 when South Korea started to assign military duty to men of 18 years of age or older. So it basically began after the Korean War was over.
For the uninitiated, the Korean War began on June 25, 1950 when North Korea attacked South Korea with no declaration of war. South Korea wasn't prepared for the sudden war and was in a great danger. So the UN started helping South Korea, and thanks to General MacArthur’s amphibious invasion in Incheon, South Korean soldiers were able to advance all the way to Yalu River.
But China allied with North Korea, and the war went on for about 3 years and a month until North Korea and South Korea ended up signing a ceasefire agreement in July 1953.
So, even though South Korea looks peaceful now, North and South Korea are still technically at war. Honestly, I’m Korean, even I keep forgetting that the Korean War hasn’t officially ended yet. But because North Korea and South Korea have been standing face to face since the ceasefire agreement, South Korea’s government has employed conscription.
At first the conscription period was 3 years, but now it’s 21 months. And it will be 18 months, starting in July, 2020. Conscription in South Korea requires men between 20 and 22 to perform military service.
* Any ways you can delay your enlistment?
There are two ways.
First, you can delay if you are student. This is so you can avoid a gap in the middle of your schooling. If you are in high school, university, or graduate school, you can delay your enlistment until you graduate.
The other way you can delay is if you have personal reasons. That is, if one of the following applies to you, you can put off your enlistment:.
#1 You are suffering from a disease or a mental disorder that makes it practically impossible for you to serve in the military.
#2 Your direct ascendant, or direct descendant, your spouse, brother, sister, or anyone else in your family who lives with you is seriously ill or dead, and you are the only one who can nurse them or organize the funeral.
#3 You are a victim of a natural disaster of some sort, and nobody in your household except you can handle it.
#4 You are missing.
#5 You have applied for the position of an army surgeon or for change of duty, and you are waiting for the result.
#6 You have received approval for traveling abroad or the period extension of travel abroad, or you are not 25 yet, or you are waiting to travel outside the country.
#7 You are about to take a school entrance exam.
#8 You cannot serve in the military for some other crucial reasons.
You can apply for the delay up to 5 times and can delay your enlistment up to 730 days.
However, even if you applied for the delay, you must enlist before you pass the age of 30, which is why Korean men born in 1992 are obligated to enlist in 2020.
* Any ways you can be exempt from the military service?
Yes! There certain conditions that are viewed as valid reasons for exemption.
#1. If you are the only person who can make a living for your family. (The Korean military's standards for this category are extremely hard to meet, even for non-celebrities!)
#2. If you are physically defective. For example, if you have a herniated disc in your spine or neck, or if you tear your cruciate ligament or suffer from habitual dislocations of your shoulders or any other joints, you may be exempt from the military service. You have to be able to prove your physical condition, though.
#3. If you stand at 140 cm or shorter.
#4. If you refuse to perform the military service, either because you feel bad or your religious beliefs go against the military service. Remember that not everyone is "qualified" to refuse to serve in the military. Also, if you get an approval and they "successfully refuse" it, you are assigned a different task as an alternative to your military service. However, if it is determined that you just lied in order to avoid serving in the military, you may be sentenced to imprisonment.
#5. If you are addicted to something. This includes drug addiction, alcoholism, and even addiction to video games. As for the game addiction, this is not a joke. As controversial as this is, you really can be exempted, or at least assigned to do alternative service, if you are professionally diagnosed that you need a treatment for over 6 months.
#6. If you enhanced national prestige. This is if you won medals at international competitions, such as the Olympics, Asian Games, and World Cup. For the Olympics, you can be exempt if you win a gold, silver, or bronze.
For Asian Games, only the gold medal can get you exempt. Enhancing national prestige is actually the main reason why many people believe BTS members should be exempt from serving in the military.
#7 If you had a sex-change operation. By the way, transgenders can be exempt too. If you had a surgery to remove your testicles or your genitals, or if you have evidence that you’ve received a hormone treatment for more than 4 years, it is considered a valid reason for your military exemption.
* Any case of a K-pop star getting into trouble?
As far as the military service is concerned, there have been many controversies in Korean entertainment industry over the years.
The biggest example is Yoo Seung-jun. He was a massively popular singer in the 90s to early 2000s. You could say he was a part of the 1st generation of K-pop idols. He used to say in public that he would fulfill his military duty, but in 2002, he suddenly flew over to LA and became a US citizen, which made him exempt from the Korean military service. Fans were furious, and so was the press. Ministry of Justice banned Yoo Seung-jun from entering the country, so to this day, he can’t enter South Korea. He made several attempts to do it recently, but wasn’t able to. Both the public and the press don't like him to this day.
Another good example is rapper MC Mong who was incredibly popular as a musician. He also appeared in tons of variety shows, gaining more popularity. However, it was later found out that he intentionally extracted 12 of his teeth to be exempt from military service. He basically exploited the fact that the military draft physical examination takes into account the score for each tooth when determining the extent of one’s mental disability.
* Silver lining?
If your favorite idols go to the army for military service, don’t be so depressed. They gain a huge amount of respect in return when they get discharged from the army after going through the same, arduous army experience with everyone else. Besides, avoiding the military service often involves doing something illegal, which could make it impossible to keep pursuing a career in entertainment. It's obviously way better for us to wait for these idols for 21 months than to never be able to see them again in show business.
Also, military service is a source of hilarity too. It’s an environment where a group of men in the same age group spend 21 months together, which has created a certain culture over many years. This culture inspired a number military-themed variety shows to be born.
* If you want to write a letter to an idol in the army
There is actually a Korean app through which you can write a letter to an idol, or a non-idol, in the army. Just follow these steps.
#1. Open App Store or Play Store, and search for ‘The Camp’.
#2. Register in whatever way you prefer. For the registration type, select ‘Regular Member’.
#3. Hit the ‘Register soldier’ button in the menu, and enter the soldier’s name, birth date, and enlistment date to add him in your app.
#4. Go to ‘Division’ café in the ‘Barrack’ tab to register for the training center where the soldier is stationed. Apply for registration and hit ‘Write a letter’ to write a letter.
All the letters written through this app can reach the idols, for real!