Should MC Mong, Se7en & Others be Allowed to Come Back?
MC Mong's case is bigger than his celebrity. It is a representation of how little people understand South Korea's political and social condition. This is not about the entertainment industry losing a great rapper. This is about a country being taken for granted by the people who are living in it.
I was an avid 1N2D season 1 fan. I loved and still love each of the cast members. Unlike in other variety shows where I tend to develop a favorite or several favorites, 1N2D was one show where I just liked them all. That is why I took it hard when MC Mong’s military scandal broke out because I knew there was no way he will be allowed to continue on 1N2D and I personally felt betrayed with what he did.
Before we go further into the discussion on MC Mong, it is important to note that this is not the first case where a celebrity tried to avoid military service nor will it be the last. Aside from "avoiding military service", there are also other celebrities who have been caught not following rules or violating certain codes of conduct while serving their military duties:
- Se7en and Sangchu were caught entering a massage parlor known for sexual favors, beating up a photographer and leaving their post without permission
- Kim Jong Kook opted to go for “public” service instead of an “active” one despite being known for his strength
- Yoo Seung –Jun, a star in the early 2000s, changed his nationality just before he was drafted
Any time such scandal breaks, you can expect a public outcry. Many non-Korean Kpop followers also get involved in the debate. As expected, they are always in the side of their favorite celebrity.
Many fans are still calling for MC Mong to make a comeback. Now, fans of se7en and Rain feel that the mistakes committed by their idols are minor offenses and do not warrant anything more than several weeks of reflection.
There are also those who feel MC Mong should forget about the entertainment industry and that Se7en, Rain and the others should also suffer graver punishment if not banishment.
Which side is right?
For us to answer that question, it is important to understand why South Korea requires each male citizen to give up 2 years of their life for the military.
Mandatory Military Service Basics
South Korea's Independence
With the glitz and glamor of South Korea’s entertainment industry, it is easy to forget that the Korean war happened just over 60 years ago, in 1950 to be exact. There are still people who experienced the war that are still alive. Social liberalization is even younger. South Korea went through a long phase of transition before it allowed foreign cultural and social influence to come in.
It was only the children of the 80s that actually experienced freedom of expression as they know it today. By any measure, the liberalization they are experiencing right now is young. Their entertainment industry is even younger.
More importantly, there is a huge gap between the senior generation and young generation in terms of culture. The younger generation is very much exposed to the western culture while the older generation, the ones who rule the country, are still very much in touch to South Korea’s chaotic history and the trauma it brings.
This leads us to the next point.
MC Mong in 1N2D
Why the mandatory military service?
In 1948, the Republic of Korea was established by the South and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea by the North. When Russia left the North, the North insisted that South Korea expel the U.S. The South refused and the relationship between the two became more tensed.
June 25, 1950, North Korean forces advanced to South Korea. This began the now Korean War (a.k.a. Forgotten War). Civilians were being hurt and South Korea was at a big disadvantage. It was clear that the North will succeed in their plan to invade the South and unify the whole country until the United Nations stepped in. By 1953, an armistice was put forward which effectively upheld the division of the North and the South. However, this armistice was never signed by the South. More importantly, an armistice is but an agreement between two parties at war to stop firing and fighting BUT it doesn’t mean the war is over.
This means South Korea is still at war.
At any given time, the North can invade the South. With the continuous thread of Nuclear power being honed and lots of threats being thrown around, the danger is ever present.
Story of Korean War
But what does it really mean?
It means that the freedom that every South Korean experience today is threatened. They are not totally free. South Korea is still at war and that’s what many people don’t get.
Imagine sleeping every night knowing that armed men can come to your house and take over it. Imagine waking up and seeing all those idols, Hallyu stars and Korean celebrities punished for coloring their hair and wearing colorful clothes. Imagine waking up one day with your airwaves and television stations filled with patriotic music you don’t even believe in.
That’s why every male Korean are required to serve the army. If one day, they all wake up and North Koreans are all over place, they’ll know how to fight and defend the freedom that allowed them to sing and dance to the music of their choice.
It is not some ancient belief that is designed to irritate the holy hell out of young people. It is necessary, a part of their obligation to the country they were born into.
That’s Why Koreans Take it Seriously
That’s why Koreans take it to heart. Celebrities are afforded privileges that are not extended to other people with more noble professions. The least people are asking for is for these celebrities to take their duty for their country seriously. It’s two years of their lives, not half of it.
Are the standards too stiff?
Shouldn’t it be? South Korea is still at war. Defending your country is a sacred vow, it’s a sacred duty, a sacred necessity.
Even American soldiers, when they are deployed, are on duty 24 hours a day. They are always on call and are always required to wear their uniform. They don’t have the privilege of calling home anytime. They are given several minutes a week to call home. Not too far from what South Korean military men are required to do.
Can’t they be forgiven?
Forgiveness is easy to give. The real question is whether or not they should be given another chance at their career.
Not that no one has been given another chance. Kim Jong Kook, who later admitted he made the wrong decision, was able to resume his career because he never really deferred his duty, he just chose the division with less work. Rain seems to be getting less flak for not wearing a complete uniform and leaving his post because he did serve the military. He just made silly mistakes in the process.
However, MC Mong evaded his military duties completely. Yes, it can be argued that he didn’t do it to get out of his service. After all, the supreme court only found him guilty for getting in the way of the process of being drafted but they didn’t prove the malice of his actions. Malice is always the most difficult to prove.
Yoo Seung –Jun, on the other hand, got his citizenship just before he was drafted. It was viewed as a conscious move to get out of his military duty. He later expressed his willingness to still complete his military duty but it was too little too late, he was already banned.
The problem is if you give one a chance, shouldn’t you give everyone else another chance? That opens a can of worms. Then Korean celebrities can get out of their duty, apologize, reflect and then resume their glamorous lifestyle.
If there is any celebrity that I would want to be exempted from the “punishment”, it would be MC Mong but it doesn’t mean I want him to be exempted. As painful as it is from a fan, no one should be above the interest of the country.
And I write that with a really really heavy heart.
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