I Think Korean Military Service is a Good Thing and This is Why

When it comes to K-entertainment, I really am such a newbie. I’ve only been watching since January of this year, so I’ve had to learn a lot of things about a completely new culture very quickly, because I hate missing out on the jokes.

Okay, it’s also because I want to understand the culture, but I really, really hate missing jokes.

Anyway, actors leaving for the mandatory military service came up pretty quickly, and as I investigated, I learned that every healthy Korean male must put in two years before they turn 35. According to this DramaFever article, most go before they turn 29. I nodded and went along with this, because for me, this is a way of life.


DWASOK dogs what


Lemme ‘splain. In my religion, healthy young men are expected to take two years out of their lives before they turn 25 to serve a mission. If you want to know more, go ahead and click the link. My point is that all my life I’ve watched young men leave their families and friends behind for two years and go somewhere else to do things for other people, instead of focusing on themselves. And while there are exceptions, for the most part these young men come back more mature, more focused, with a broader understanding of human nature and an expanded worldview. In other words, mission service is a good thing.

I can see where mandatory military service can do the same thing for Korean men. I’ve heard about the . . . enhanced physical condition that actors often return in, and in some cases, the availability of lead roles for the returning actors as others leave for their service. I’m sure that they too leave as boys and come back as men.

On the kpop side, though, I understand that military service is a career-killer. I have ambivalent feelings about this as well, since from what I understand, being a kpop idol is intense and leaves zero time for anything else. The momma-bear in me wants these cute boys to have a shot at regular life at *some* point, preferably before they’re too old to enjoy it!

DWASOK SHINee Everybody

My drama-watching partner has introduced me to all things SHINee, and stepping back, I can see how they’re preparing for post-military life. MinHo and Onew have acting careers, Key has branched out into both acting and fashion, Jonghyun has his DJ work and solo albums, and Taemin is developing a solid solo career that he can pursue while his hyungs are serving. That’ll give him time to launch into something else that will survive post-military while they’re gone.

So, to my maknae mind, military service isn’t a bad thing. It brings change, which is always hard, but change often leads to growth, and growth is always a good thing. I applaud these men for doing what they need to do, and I’ll be happily waiting to see what they do when they return. I expect good things.

0 thoughts on “I Think Korean Military Service is a Good Thing and This is Why

  1. I can totally see this from your point of view, and having always seen men go off on missions. For me I see it as a necessary evil for them. The culture surrounding the SK military isn’t exactly one I’d want my sons to have to participate in (at least from some research I’ve read). My hope is that when stars go away to the military they return happy and healthy men.

  2. I always felt that there are several million young men in the US that could benefit from mandatory military training (how to get your butt out of bed in the morning, how to get in shape, how to show respect and take orders, etc.). Currently, the military isn’t interested in fixing momma’s failures, hehe.

  3. It does make me wonder why the trainee system at music/drama agencies just doesn’t take this one step further and start pushing them through while they’re young and under contract. These kids don’t get to go to college – I think the agencies could rotate them through at 18 and get it over first as a prerequisite. My favorite rapper, Swings (Moon Ji-hoon), waited very late to go and he’s said in interviews that he’d wished he’d gone earlier when his mental health was in better shape. He only served half his time and was released on mental health issues.

    • That would make so much sense – and it might happen now since this new thing went into effect where they get not much notice :( Those companies will have to do something or tour dates etc will be in jeopardy across the board.

    • Actually, from what I’ve read, there are at least two members of SHINee who have finished college, and Taemin is in college. (I officially know WAY TOO MUCH about them. Anyway….)

      I think that’s a good idea, to get them through their military service while they’re young. I don’t know how well it would work out, but it would definitely get them into peak physical condition.

  4. I’m retired US Navy. I personally think that every PERSON – ie not just young MEN – should do some sort of public service (ideally between HS & college). Really. Why just the guys? & certainly not just military service – SK does have a handle on that :D I think that if enforced universally (as in SK where the rich & poor, famous & unknown, all have to go) it would be fantastic in helping young people develop responsibility.

    • It can be very helpful. Just broadening their worldview a bit would help a LOT, as well as responsibility. Though on the other hand, as other posters have pointed out (here and on FB), it has to be done right. I have a friend who wasn’t able to finish basic training before the “build them back up” phase, and it took YEARS for them to recover.

  5. Ideally, army should help with the growth of a person, BUT the atmosphere in the army is very hierarchy to begun with, when you add the very rigid and rank oriented Korean society, the army service can be very toxic experience. I come from a similar society and the horror stories about the army service were endless….

    • I’m sure. It’s a difficult line to tread — SK wants to be able to protect itself, but there are SO MANY other factors influencing military service and the outcome. It’s hard to make it a positive experience for everyone.

Leave a Reply