Being a K-pop fan isn’t always fine and dandy! Sure, K-pop is filled with extra clothing, extra colors and extra-ness, but that doesn’t mean it escapes the real world. K-pop culture and Korean culture collides especially in one event: enlistment.
Enlistment is when Korean men between the ages of 18-35 (but usually below the age of 30) enlist in the Korean army for a year and a half or two years, depending on the situation. Korean men enrolling in the army has been a patriotic event that is not exempted for even the most famous K-pop male stars. Most male groups will be split up for years waiting for other members to return only to have the others ones needing to enlist soon after. It’s a constant cycle that is admirable, but upsetting for many fans.
As male idols get older it can leave fans in a panic counting the years before the idol leaves. However, some idols are exempted in two main ways: alternative service (usually community service) and/or medical problems. Idols that are in a major accident, are majorly ill, or are unable to fulfill their duties are exempted from entering the military, but stall their activities. Many idols tend to wait until their late twenties, early thirties to enlist because during their early twenties is when they are the busiest promoting their group and/or solo careers! However, some idols do decide to go early, like Lee Chan Hyuk from the brother/sister duo, AKMU, who is only 20 years old.
K-pop fans will have to wait for years before a K-pop male group is finally reunited, which might lead to an increase of solo albums or broadcast time for members left behind or members that have returned. Many male idols, whether solo or part of a group, sometimes will release a solo single expressing their love and support for their fans, like Kyuhyun from Super Junior. Kyuhyun was enlisted soon after releasing his powerful last solo single ‘Goodbye for Now.’
Many of these male idols return unhurt and hopefully, this trend will continue as the years follow and K-pop increases in popularity.
What are your thoughts on enlistment for male K-pop stars? Let me know in the comments below.
Stay Kurrent. Stay K-pop.
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