On January 1, the news broke that the singer Rain, who was in the midst of fulfilling his military service, and the actress Kim Tae Hee were spotted out on a date. Questions were raised over how Rain managed to enjoy dating while serving in the army. Further questions were raised concerning the many benefits that entertainers serving as soldiers receive.
Entertainers in the military soldiers can provide benefits to the Ministry of National Defense (MND). Instead of spending thousands of dollars to hire top celebrities for promotions, the MND pays entertainers who are obliged to complete their compulsory military duty approximately nine million won per month. Their performances create an energetic atmosphere and enhance the overall image of the military. For these reasons, the MND considers entertainment soldiers to be playing crucial roles.
Military authorities emphasize that entertainment soldiers are essential in that they boost troop morale. But do entertainers in the armed services truly encourage the troops? If so, is it justifiable for such entertainers to enjoy leave days and vacations while ordinary soldiers are confined to the barracks and given limited free time? After the news about Rain and Kim Tae Hee surfaced, people’s anger toward Rain and other entertainer soldiers was raised by the many extra benefits those particular soldiers have enjoyed. Ordinary soldiers receive 50 leave days during their service period while entertainment soldiers usually get 70 to 80 days of leave. In some cases, they even enjoy more than 100 days of leave. A famous example is the singer Boom, who enjoyed 150 days of leave during his military service, three times the number of leave days ordinary servicemen are generally permitted to take. Such discrepancies have raised issues over fairness and equality.
While entertainers sometimes spend time off base so they can practice after work, ordinary soldiers receive compensatory leave only when they catch armed North Korean spies or win a shooting competition. One action makes for better jokes or singing, the other protects the nation as a whole. No wonder ordinary servicemen are not happy about this situation.
The basic principle of the conscription system is equal treatment for all members. Unfortunately, some entertainer soldiers enjoy leave days and dating while ordinary servicemen are guarding frontiers and shoveling snow. According to official policy, having personal time with friends or dating is strictly forbidden. However, only one administrator oversees the soldiers’ overall leave days and vacations. Consequently, the loose regulation relies on entertainers’ honesty, which has led to a loss of public faith in the system and in the entertainers involved.
Military service is an extremely serious matter. Unfortunately, the MND’s attitude toward the current system of entertainer soldiers does not seem to achieve the same scope of seriousness. The MND has rather been dormant toward the issue of entertainer soldiers. As the controversy over the preferential treatment such entertainers receive grows, public anger toward them grows at the same time. Now it is time for the MND to needs to step up and implement a more equitable policy regarding such soldiers.