SEOUL, Oct. 2 (Korea Bizwire) — A task force composed of officials from the Military Manpower Administration and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism with the goal of improving the process of military service exemptions for artists and athletes was launched on October 1.
Controversy surrounding the current system was sparked during the 2018 Asian Games held in Jakarta-Palembang.
According to a Military Manpower Administration official, the taskforce is expected to meet regularly once or twice monthly to discuss ways to improve the military service exemption system.
“We will come up with innovative measures by consulting with external experts, holding public hearings, and carrying out opinion polls,” said the official.
The members of the task force will serve for one year, after which the recommendations made by the task force will be reflected in new legislation.
Current laws on the matter stipulate that artists and athletes who place third or higher in the Olympic Games, place first at the Asian Games, place second or higher at international art contests, or place first at a domestic art contest are exempt from full military service.
Bestowed reservist status in lieu of full-fledge service, the artists and athletes can continue to work in their respective field of expertise as civilians after completing four weeks of basic training.
During a specified period of time, these men must carry out certain community service duties, but they are essentially exempt from military service.
Critics have pointed out that the system in which military exemptions awarded to those who win just one award of an international caliber is problematic.
The issue was further highlighted when all members of the national baseball team that participated in the 2018 Asian Games were given military exemptions, regardless of how much they contributed to the team’s success.
Sports professionals have said that it is unfair that only athletes that perform well at the Asian and Olympic Games are eligible for military exemptions, while winners of other international tournaments are not.
In the arts sphere, allowing exemptions to winners of contests pertaining to fine arts while excluding those in the popular art sector is also unfair practice, according to some.
For the Korean boy band sensation BTS, having their recent album “Love Yourself: Tear” debut in the top spot on the Billboard 200 is regarded by many as a feat on par with a gold medal finish in an international contest such as the Asian Games.
The government is trying to come up with a measure that would improve the current system in terms of fairness rather than abolish the exemptions altogether.
H. S. Seo (firstname.lastname@example.org)