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The dating life of an `entertainment soldier`

Posted January. 03, 2013 00:01,   


The official position of “entertainment soldier” constitutes a “member of the national defense assistance squad.” The squad was established in December 1996 under an executive ordinance from the Defense Ministry, and members comprise “soldiers selected to the squad among those who join the military after serving as professionals in related fields, including actors, comedians, singers, hosts and music composers.” The selection criteria include acting experience as the main or supporting character in a movie or TV drama, and if they appeared on a TV comedy program. Most of them are selected from active-duty soldiers who apply over the recruitment period, but the Defense Media Agency occasionally singles out human resources required for military broadcast stations or consolatory performances for soldiers at its own discretion. Such entertainment soldiers are no different from ordinary soldiers in terms of both 21-month service period and welfare.

The Defense Ministry uses entertainment soldiers, who fulfill their compulsory military duty, by paying them under 100 U.S. dollars per month instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire professionals. For this reason, ample benefits await such soldiers compared with ordinary servicemen. The post of entertainment soldier is highly envied by ordinary non-specialist soldiers. Rapper Psy, who went to boot camp twice, opted to be an entertainment solider in his second tour of duty. The number of leave days that an entertainment soldier can take instantly enables people to understand why ordinary soldiers envy the post. Ordinary soldiers cannot take more than 50 days of leave over their period of service, including three regular (for a combined 28 days), one consolatory for a new recruit (five days), and one compensatory (up to 10 days), but entertainment soldiers generally enjoy 70 to 80 days of leave. They often take more than 100 days of leave. Singer Boom even took 150 days off before being discharged in August 2011. The number of days sleeping outside of the barracks, which is limited to 10 days for ordinary soldiers, is a meaningless figure for entertainment soldiers.

After the news broke that singer Rain, who will be discharged in July, and actress Kim Tae-hee are dating, controversy has heated up over the number of leave days that entertainment soldiers take. Rain took 22 days off through compensatory and consolatory leave, but had 34 days of sleeping outside of the barracks and 44 outings apart from 10 days of official sleep-outs. Other soldiers guard the heavily inter-Korean border and brave bone-chilling weather of minus 20 degrees Celsius, but Rain took off many days from duty and enjoyed dates with his actress girlfriend. Anger against Rain has been escalating through Internet posts, as he has become the boyfriend of an actress who once was a heroine to all.

Rain did have justifiable reasons to spend time outside of his barracks, however. Being tasked with creating a top-rated stage at a K-pop concert organized by the Defense Media Agency in the wake of Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea, he had to practice overnight with six dancers and choreographers after work hours. This forced him to sleep outside of his barracks. While other Korean Wave stars were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for their work and performances, Rain should get credit for promoting a national event for free. This might be hard to accept for the military`s 450,000 ordinary soldiers, who can only get compensatory leave if they catch armed North Korean spies or win a shooting competition at the division or regimen level. But Rain should be more considerate of his fellow servicemen, though he probably faced hardship in having to serve his country at the rather advanced age of 30.

Editorial Writer Ha Tae-won (triplets@donga.com)