We Love A Man In Uniform – But Not Really When It Breaks Up Our Favorite K-pop Band Or K-drama Bias
It may seem odd to Westerners, but South Korea is one of some countries that still has compulsory military service.
There are a number of reasons why the compulsory military service system is still in place, not the least being that South Korea is technically still at war with North Korea as a peace treaty was never signed after the Korean War.
At the time of writing, there are a number of Hallyu stars enlisting in the South Korean army for their compulsory two-year service in 2017.
This raises two questions – how will the fans cope with their favourite idol being out of the spotlight for two years? And how do those enlistees resume their careers once they are discharged?
All able-bodied South Korean men are subject to compulsory military service for approximately two years in a country that faces North Korea across a heavily fortified border. In 2017, any Korean man born in 1997 – i.e. who is turning 20 – can enlist in the military. They have until their 35th birthday to enlist.
The length of service varies according to branches: 21 months for Army and Marine Corps, 23 months for Navy, 24 months for Air Force. The non-active duty service, e.g. civil service or public service worker, is from 24 months to 36 months.
Considering that celebrities tend to defer enlistment until they are nearing their 30th birthday, there are a number of oppas who will turn 29 or 30 this year, and are likely to enlist.
Some of those who have enlisted or are expected to in 2017:
Junsu (JYJ) – enlisted in February 2017
KwangHee (ZE:A) – enlisted in March 2017
KyuHyun (Super Junior) – enlisted in May 2017
Beenzino – enlisted in May 2017
Lee Min Ho – enlisted in May 2017
TaecYeon (2PM) – enlisting in 2017
Ji Chang Wook – enlisting in 2017
Jang Geun Suk – enlisting in 2017
Joo Won – enlisting in 2017
Kim Soo Hyun – Actor – enlisting in 2017
What idols expect during and after their 2-year military service:
When T.O.P enlisted in February of this year, his fans were distraught. Hundreds of them gathered at the Nonsan Army Training Centre in Chungcheong province to send their farewells to the singer-actor.
During T.O.P’s training, his sister made a request to fans via Instagram to stop sending food to the barracks as the training centre he was at did not allow food delivery. The senseless action could get the BIGBANG star into trouble.
After successfully completing his 4-week mandatory military training as well as his police duty training, prior to his recent marijuana scandal, T.O.P was serving as a conscripted policeman at Gangnam Police Station.
In the case of Lee Min Ho, the news of his enlistment did not come as a surprise to his fans, who had been anticipating the announcement of his enlistment. However, it still caused grief and concerns from many fans of Lee Min Ho around the world.
There was even a movement being driven through Facebook in an attempt to help fans with the disappointment of no new dramas from Lee Min Ho for the next two years. Fans were encouraged to watch one episode a week of Lee Min Ho’s dramas, which will help them make it through the 2-year service period.
The actor started working at the Gangnam Ward Office as a public service worker in southern Seoul from mid-May instead of a regular military enlistment, his management agency said. The actor seriously injured his thigh and ankle in a 2006 car accident. He got injured again in another car accident while shooting a drama in 2011. Both injuries meant that he could not participate in active service.
Till now, there are still hordes of people, who would wait outside the office everyday for a glimpse of the well-loved “oppa”.
Entertainer Kim Hyun Joong was discharged from the military after two years in February 2017. His career prior to enlistment included starring in the hugely popular Korean dramas Boys Over Flowers and Playful Kiss. He was (and is) a member of K-Pop boy band SS501, and has a flourishing career as a solo singer.
When addressing his fans upon discharge, he said: “I feel it is starting of second half of my life. I am still worried and fearful. However, I have been thinking a lot during the time serving the mandatory service. I hope that all of you will still trust and watch me more.”
Kim is currently in the process of restarting his career. He has recently held a fan meeting in Seoul, the first in four years, which was very well received. He also undertook a tour in Japan in early June 2017.
Another K-pop star “U-Know” Yunho of K-pop idol duo TVXQ also recently finished his mandatory military service. He promised fans a comeback for the team in the near future. “Please look forward to the complete TVXQ to return. Now is the start,” the 31-year-old singer told an estimated crowd of 800 fans and reporters in front of the Army’s 26th Mechanized Infantry Division at Yangju, north east of Seoul, when he was discharged.
The singer said he cherishes his experience in the military: “It was an opportunity to mature (personally) and learn to appreciate even the smallest things.”
Of course, there are many Korean male celebrities, who have completed their mandatory 2-year military service, and successfully resumed their careers.
Korean celebrities who have completed military service include:
Park Seo Joon – currently starring in K-drama “Fight for My Way”
Goong Yoo – recently played the lead role in K-drama “Goblin”
So Ji Sub – will soon be seen in the new Korean movie “Battleship Island”
Hyun Bin – recently starred in the Korean move “Confidential Assignment”
Lee Joon Gi – starred in recent K-drama “Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo”; upcoming new K-drama “Criminal Minds”
Song Joong Ki – was the lead actor in the 2016 K-drama “Descendants of the Sun”; coming new Korean move “Battleship Island”
RAIN – successfully resumed both his singing and acting career. His most recent comeback was with the track “The Best Present” in January 2017, which was dedicated to his now wife Kim Tae Hee.
So, while we will miss our favourite Oppas when they are away serving their country, it is important to remember that it’s only two years. Not 10 or 20 years.
We can continue to support them while they are serving, simply by watching their dramas and listening to their music. We can certainly look forward to even more K-dramas and K-pop once they are discharged.
It’s time for you to renew and keep the faith!