Talent agencies say army is ‘using’ starsA battle is brewing between male celebrities’ agencies and the Defense Ministry. This time it’s not about entertainers trying to dodge their compulsory military service, nor tried to delay their draft date to “advance their entertainment career.” It is rather the agencies that are angry that stars are being abused in the military. Some agencies are reportedly preparing to lodge a suit claiming a plan by the Defense Ministryto get entertainers automatically assigned to work for the ministry’s cable channel.
The agencies say they want to defend the rights of the entertainers who might want to spend their military term like ordinary soldiers, though it is questionable whether the entertainers agree with that.
The suit is in response to a plan by the Defence Ministry’s public relations arm, the Defense Agency for Public Information Services. Last month the agency said it wanted to have all drafted entertainers be dispatched to its special “entertainment unit.”
Soldiers who apply for positions in the “entertainment unit” run the information service’s Korea Defense Daily ― they also appear on its cable channel, Korean Forces Network (KFN), and produce propaganda films and commercials for the military. Actors doing their military service had in the past often applied for the limited number of positions at the Defense Agency after five weeks of basic training.
Although the positions are considered relatively easy and are popular among the celebrities for this reason, the talent agencies said it is the automatic selection of celebrities for the unit that angers them.
“All they [the Defense Agency for Public Information Services] want is a cheap way to use top stars in their programs,” said a member of an entertainment agency who asked for anonymity. “KFN should try to find some other way to raise its viewer’s rating instead of exploiting our stars.”
The network has a yearly budget of 5.1 billion won ($5.2 million) which is less than the amount a major broadcaster puts aside to make a single television drama. But after a series of famous young actors were recently drafted and assigned to KFN, its viewers rating ranking jumped to 30th place out of the nation’s 80 channels.
Excited by the rising popularity of its outlet, the Defense Agency suggested it wanted to create an official “entertainment unit” which would be compromised of 35 celebrity soldiers.
If it does, top stars such as Won Bin would almost definitely be on the list for the new unit. Won is currently stationed in Hwacheon, Gangwon province, near the DMZ. He has refused to join the celebrity soldier’s group, saying he wanted to spend his military life quietly. He is currently refusing all interviews from the media, including a request from the Defense Ministry press corp.
There are rumors that the Defense Agency and KFN were more than disappointed when Won and his agent refused a position at KFN, which was eager to snare him after he was drafted last November.
“We don’t think entertainers are obliged to continue performing while their career is on hold during army service,” said an official at Won’s agency.
More than 10 actors will be drafted into the army this year. The singers Kim Jong-guk, Gangta, Tony Ahn, Jo Sung-mo, Kim Tae-woo and Sohn Ho-young are also some of the big names that may be enlisted by KFN.
Currently, Yoon Gye-sang, a former member of the pop band g.o.d., Hong Gyeong-in, an actor, and Park Gwak-hyeon, a singer, are among the 11 celebrity soldiers who volunteered to work for KFN. Hong and Park recently took part in recording the rap song “My Fellow Soldier.”
by Lee Min-a