Draft-dodging singer still looking in

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Draft-dodging singer still looking in

Korean men face a mandatory 26 months of military service. Nobody likes it, but everybody’s got to do it. Or at least every able-bodied man is supposed to do it. There is no shortage of guys who try to get out of it. Allegations last fall that a presidential candidate’s sons had improperly evaded their service commitment hit his campaign pretty hard.
The entertainment industry is no exception. Many promising careers, from Psy to the guys in Crying Nut, have been derailed (if only temporarily) as they had to leave the pop world behind and do their duty.
The Korean-born singer Yoo Seung-jun is discovering, however, what happens to those stars who do not do their duty. The singer had had a green card from the United States for some time, but he maintained his Korean citizenship as well and had announced officially that he would serve his term in the military. At the time, he drew great support for his patriotic decision.
Then, in January 2002, just before his enlistment was scheduled to begin, the 27-year-old singer became a United States citizen. A great number of people were upset by this move. And, it turns out, so was the government. Last February, Mr. Yoo tried to re-enter the country, but was denied entry at the airport.
More recently, in April, the singer wrote a letter to the Ministry of Justice and other government organizations, including the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, to plead his case. Han Sang-ho, a lawyer at the Lee Jung Law Office, who represents Tube Records, Mr. Yoo’s record label, argues that because Mr. Yoo is technically a foreigner, the decision to forbid his entrance to the country is a violation of the constitution.
“We do not plan to take any legal action regarding this aspect of the matter, but we have consulted numerous sources and we think we might have a case,” Mr. Han says. The lawyer added that his client wants only to have an opportunity to apologize to the fans and take it from there.
Nevertheless, just as die hard fans support the singer’s right to return, resentment is high among non-fans. Park Yoon-mi, 27, a graduate student at Yonsei University, thinks he should not be allowed to come back. “If he wants to earn money here he should fulfill his duties just like everyone else,” she says. “He made his choice. Now he has to live with it. Period.”
The Military Manpower Administration denied reports on its Web site Saturday that it was favorably considering Mr. Yoo’s request to re-enter the country.
The administration stated that its decision was based on the feeling that if a person like Yoo Seung-jun were able to continue to make money in the flashy, high-profile entertainment industry, it would hurt morale of soldiers and send the wrong message to the nation.
In the meantime, according to Westside, the singer’s online fan club, Mr. Yoo is residing in Los Angeles, where he spends his days participating in Christian functions and hoping to return to Korea.


by Brian Lee
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