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The Peninsula

National Defense Prioritized over K-pop

Published December 5, 2019
Author: Korea View
Category: South Korea

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

  • Last week, the Minister of Culture announced that K-pop stars would not receive exemptions from military service.
  • The decision comes in the midst of a movement by the Military Manpower Administration and the Ministry of National Defense to reduce the total number of exemptions permitted.
  • This reduction is a response to South Korea’s rapidly shrinking population of young men eligible for conscription.

Implications: The Korean government has invested a substantial amount of money into K-pop as a major global commodity, but demographic challenges are forcing the country to choose between exports and national defense. While K-pop fans may criticize the government, the decision was likely a difficult one. K-pop generates both revenue and soft power capital for the country; therefore, curbing these band members’ ability to perform undercuts national interest in these areas. However, this is just one of many tough decisions that Korea will likely face in the future as population decline limits the country’s ability to meet its national defense needs.

Context: The ruling did grant some leeway for the K-pop industry. The ministry is planning to lessen the international travel restrictions placed on men over the age of 25 that have yet to complete their military service. These restrictions currently cause problems for stars who are hoping to go on tour overseas. Additionally, the ministry announced that those athletes and artists who have received exemptions from their service will be required to make a greater social contribution to the country.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Soojin Hwang, Hyoshin Kim, and Rachel Kirsch.

Photo from Wikipedia.

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