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The Peninsula

Anti-Graft Proposal and Compulsory Military Service

Published September 22, 2020
Category: South Korea, slider

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • The main opposition People Power Party (PPP) intends to propose a revised bill that would forestall attempts to exercise undue influence in military service affairs.
  • This move comes amid allegations that the Justice Minister used her influence to help her son obtain special treatment during his military service.
  • In the revision, lawmakers call for stronger action against people who request illegal favors, regardless of whether or not those favors were accepted.

Implications: The proposed revision to the current anti-graft law reflects South Korea’s high sensitivity to issues related to compulsory military service. Rather than only punishing the illegal outcomes of influence peddling, the bill proposes to penalize attempted solicitations. By initiating this change, the main opposition party hopes to leverage the popular outrage to gain ground in the polls. Meanwhile, support for the Democratic Party and President Moon Jae-in has dropped significantly among men and the younger generation as a result of growing criticism surrounding the Justice Minister and her son.

Context: The government’s growing concern around the growing manpower deficit may be also shaping its more stringent posture on military service affairs. For instance, the Ministry of Culture, Sport, and Tourism decided not to exempt K-pop stars from military service – a difficult decision as this relinquishes both serious export revenue and soft power capital.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Sophie Joo, Sonia Kim, and Chris Lee.

Picture from the Republic of Korea Army account on Wikimedia Commons.

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