Anchor: With the population rapidly declining due to record-low birth rates, the South Korean government has announced measures to downsize alternative military service options. Officials have also decided against giving special treatment to global K-pop stars like boy band BTS.
Choi You Sun has the details.
Report: A government task force commissioned to look into revising South Korea's alternative military service has decided against granting exemptions to pop culture artists or allowing them to perform alternative forms of service.
The Defense Ministry said on Thursday that the decision, along with the government's revisions to the alternative system to improve the fairness of the country's mandatory military duty, were finalized at a meeting led by Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon earlier in the day.
Despite calls from fans and some politicians to give special treatment to global K-pop stars like members of BTS, who are often forced to leave in their prime for military duty, officials said they did not consider such a measure fair.
However, the government will keep the current 45 annual alternative service slots for artists and athletes such as Olympic medalists or award-winning artists, while enhancing transparency of the national team selection process and reinforcing management of alternative service.
In line with Seoul's push to downsize the alternative service programs in coping with the country's population decline, the government will cut the current seven-thousand-500 slots by about one-thousand-300 between 2022 and 2026.
The quota of one-thousand for expert research personnel enrolled in doctoral programs, who usually serve their duty at research institutes, will not change. But the quota for those in master's programs will be reduced by 300 to one-thousand-200.
As for skilled industry personnel, most of whom are vocational school graduates, the number will be reduced to three-thousand-200, while onboard ship reserve personnel, who can become merchant sailors instead of military conscripts, will be lowered to 800.
Although their numbers won't change, selection rules will also be tightened for public health doctors and public service legal personnel.
Choi You Sun, KBS World Radio News.