South Korea scraps "entertainer" military unit

Featured Korea - July 19th, 2013

The South Korean defence ministry said it had scrapped a military unit believed to be giving preferential treatment to famous enlisted men.

The “entertainer unit”, which is in charge of military promotion work including military radio and TV shows and concerts, has been embroiled in controversy after reports emerged that some celebrities serving the mandatory two-years service were given privileges usually withheld from ordinary soldiers.

Last month, a national TV news program aired footage of Korean singer Se7en (Seven) and Sangchu – both were serving in the military – conspicuously leaving a massage parlor.

According to Korea JoongAng Daily, the two had just finished a special event during a Korean holiday and, instead of returning to their unit, reportedly stayed in a hotel and went out for drinks in civilian clothes – all in violation of military rules.

The ministry launched a probe and found several violations following the reports, said ministry spokesman Wi Yong-seop.

“The goal of the operation was promoting the military and boosting the troops’ morale, but repeated disgraceful incidents tarnished the military’s image and reduced the spirits of diligent soldiers on duty,” Wi told the Wall Street Journal.

In January, singer and actor Rain stirred controversy on the military’s leniency on giving excessive leaves to celebrities after he was reportedly seen on a date during his duty. He was discharged from the unit last week.