South Korea athletes, rapper among those probed over paying to fake illness, dodge military service

South Korean authorities discovered that draft evaders would contact local brokers to fake disabilities that would disqualify them from a mandatory military draft. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL – South Korean prosecutors said on Monday that they had indicted 137 people on charges of attempting to evade the country’s mandatory military service, including charges for those aiding such offences, vowing they will beef up efforts to prevent these crimes from happening in the future.

Among those indicted were the sons of lawyers and doctors, musicians, actors, professional athletes, an entertainment agency chief, as well as a number of local military brokers who helped men attempt draft evasion, according to the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office.

The indictments come at the end of a three-month-long joint probe with the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) launched in December 2022.

“The draft dodgers meticulously crafted scenarios that would make them exempt from military service by paying fees to local brokers. The joint investigation team has also collected 1.6 billion won (S$1.7 million) in criminal proceeds from them,” said Mr Koo Sang-yeop, deputy chief prosecutor of the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office, during a press briefing.

He said prosecutors had directed the joint investigation into the draft dodging scandal, dubbed the “epilepsy scandal”, where draft evaders contact local brokers to fake disabilities that would disqualify them from a mandatory military draft on the basis of health issues.

“We have severely punished (those indicted) considering their social responsibility. The prosecution and MMA will continue to work closely to improve and tighten the current conscription system,” Mr Koo said, calling the act of trying to evade the military service in a nation where every able-bodied man has to serve “a crime that should never happen in our society”.

Those indicted had allegedly contacted brokers and asked for help demonstrating false symptoms of epilepsy during a military examination.

After submitting a fraudulent report of their diagnosis from doctors, they were deemed unfit to serve as soldiers in the army, allowing them to serve as social service agents instead.

In the process, the evaders paid an average of 3 million won to 10 million won, said the prosecutors, adding that two brokers, identified by only their surnames Kim and Koo, have pocketed 1.38 billion won and 218 million won, respectively.

They said rapper Nafla had paid around 25 million won.

South Korean rapper Nafla paid around 25 million won to brokers to avoid the military draft. PHOTO: @NASUNGCITYBOY/TWITTER

Prosecutors also vowed to closely monitor online sites, explaining that many dodgers contacted brokers through social media and that they would raise awareness of the administrative affairs covering such military issues.

The number of South Korean men who attempt to avoid their two-year mandatory military service is on the rise, with the number of successful draft dodgers growing. According to data provided by MMA in January, 578 people were turned over to the prosecution for intentional draft dodging from 2012 to Nov 30, 2022.

All able-bodied South Korean men aged between 18 and 28 are required to serve in the country’s armed forces for 18 to 21 months. THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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