SEOUL, Feb. 8 (Korea Bizwire) – CNBLUE frontman Jung Yong-hwa is set to enlist in the armed forces come March 5, according to an announcement made on January 26 by his talent agency FNC Entertainment. The surprisingly sudden decision to fulfil his national duty, after it was revealed that Jung was investigated by police for improper admission into Kyung Hee University’s graduate school, has raised suspicions on the motives behind the departure from the public eye.
Per the police, Jung applied for a doctorate program in applied arts in October 2016, but was turned down after he no-showed for a required interview. Two months later, Jung reapplied and was accepted, despite the fact that he once again did not appear for an interview.
In response to the scandal, Kyung Hee University swiftly released a statement promising it would be conducting an internal investigation into the charges, and apologized for its role in the controversy.
Whether true or not, the allegations have left a bitter taste in the mouths of South Koreans, as the issue of special treatment or favors incorporated into placement at a postsecondary institution is reminiscent of Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of Choi Soon-sil.
Choi is, of course, the close friend of former president Park Geun-hye, who was impeached last March and is currently awaiting trial on charges of bribery. Chung, who became a symbol for the abuse of power and cronyism among the elite, saw her enrollment at Ehwa Womans University revoked after it was found her mother and university officials had colluded to have the equestrian athlete accepted at the school, and had consistently been given high marks despite poor academic performance.
Illegal placement is also a sore subject in the workplace. The government launched a sweeping investigation last year into financial services firms and state operated entities to uncover cases of prejudicial hiring after casino Kangwon Land through an internal probe discovered 95 percent of staff were hired on the strength of improper solicitations.
With Jung’s public profile increasingly battered, some have openly questioned whether his declared enlistment is a designed attempt by either he or FNC Entertainment to lay low until the controversy subsides.
Celebrity news show Entertainment Weekly last week Friday reported that Jung burst into tears at a concert he gave on January 20, but that the reason behind his sorrow was his sudden enlistment.
The show added, “After the news that Jung would enlist came out 20 or so days after the academic placement scandal broke, criticism has been raised that the singer is trying to escape to get the public consternation to die down.”
With military enlistment now part of the story, others have wondered whether Jung’s repeated attempts to enroll in graduate school were simply a ploy to delay mandatory conscription. This line of thought has dragged fellow celebrity G-Dragon (Kwon Ji-yong) into suspicion.
The suspicions arise from the fact that the K-pop superstar graduated from an online university majoring in leisure sports, but later attained his masters in retail distribution at another institution that offers a path to graduation via an online course load.
G-Dragon’s agency YG Entertainment stated that it would not comment on the artist’s educational career, but said the Big Bang member would abide by all legally mandated procedures once he receives his conscription notice.
The law allows for prospective postsecondary applicants to defer enlistment for a certain period when needing to undergo applications testing. The entertainment industry has said it is common practice for male South Korean celebrities to take advantage of this loophole to extend their stay in the limelight during their 20s.
Jung Yong-hwa’s camp has insisted that his enrollment at Kyung Hee University was not motivated by military deferment. It is believed that his quick enlistment is due to the belief that should his academic status be revoked, any postponement of conscription would become highly implausible.
All able-bodied South Korean men are required to serve in the armed forces, a civic duty that has often gotten celebrities on the bad side of public opinion. In perhaps the most infamous example, one-time South Korean superstar Yoo Seung-joon (Steve Yoo), who stands accused of acquiring U.S. citizenship to stay out of the military, has been banned from entering the country since 2002.
While Jung might be able to keep a lower profile come March when he dons his army fatigues, he may find that the public will not forget about his graduate school career anytime soon.
The Ministry of Education announced on February 8 that it will launch its own investigation into the goings-on at Kyung Hee University, after initially suggesting it would stay out of the scandal.
Various onlookers have said the Ministry of Education had a change of heart after singer Jo Kwon, another Kyung Hee University student, recently came under fire for also supposedly receiving preferential treatment.
The ministry intends to wrap up its investigation before the Lunar New Year holiday period, which starts on February 15.