Silly to make K-pop singers enlist for military service and do guard duty: Pop culture critic

K-pop singer G-Dragon poses for photographs after being discharged from the army in Yongin, South Korea, on Oct 26, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

South Korea does not get any value from a K-pop singer who does guard duty during his military service.

That is the opinion of pop culture critic Ha Jae-geun, who shared his views on whether top K-pop artists should be exempted from army stints at a public hearing on Thursday (Dec 19) at the National Assembly in Seoul.

Mr Ha said the country will benefit more if the singers, who are now conquering the world, continue to ply their trade, with spin-offs generated for businesses like tourism too.

"We should ask if it's really in the national interest to make these (singers) just stand guard as soldiers," The Korea Herald cited him as saying.

But he conceded that the exemption issue will need time to settle, but the authorities can help out now by letting the stars postpone their enlistment until age 30, as many have peak careers in their 20s.

Mr Kweon Seong-dong of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party said the military exemption law, which largely benefits classical music artists and athletes, is outdated.

"When the law was introduced in 1973, those in popular art were dismissed as mere entertainers while fine art had the moral high ground," he noted.

But popular art and fine art have since switched positions, he said, with the "former being more beneficial to the country in terms of national image and economics".

Columnist Choi Chang-ho feels it will be a nightmare to decide which K-pop artist deserves exemption, given that there will be differences over what weight to put on benchmarks like album sales and industry awards.

The hearing comes nearly a month after the government announced new conscription guidelines, including no exemption for K-pop artists.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.