Draft-dodgers mostly live in affluent areas

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Draft-dodgers mostly live in affluent areas

Seoul’s three most affluent districts were found to have the highest number of men suspected to have intentionally evaded their mandatory military duty by staying overseas, government numbers show.

According to data by the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) reported recently to the National Defense Committee, of the 277 men from Seoul currently living overseas who are required to be serving in the Army, 67 are residents of the capital’s three wealthiest districts: Gangnam (32 men), Songpa (20) and Seocho (15).

Regional data also shows that among the men who have not fulfilled their military service yet, 726 have not returned to Korea over the past five years. Seoul had the most with 277, followed by Gyeonggi with 205, Incheon with 44 and Busan with 32.

Of the 1,145 men who left Korea and have not returned over the past 10 years, the majority - 862 men - went to the United States. Australia recorded the second-highest number at 60, followed by Canada (50), the United Kingdom (29) and Japan (25).

Under the military service law introduced in 2007, a man less than 24 years old who has not finished his required military service can live abroad without any restrictions. However, when a man turns 25 (as of Jan. 1), he must be granted permission from the head of the MMA to extend his stay abroad.

“If a man is not given permission from the MMA, he must return to Korea and respond to the state’s call to be drafted into the Army or [complete] the physical examination for conscription,” an MMA official said.

The source added that the MMA can legally charge men who stay abroad without permission.

“A man who evades his duty will immediately be reported to the Ministry of Justice when he returns to Korea and could face up to three years in jail, be ordered to serve his military duty by age 37 and face restrictions on employment until he is 40 years old,” a military official said.

“However, since there is no compulsory repatriation, there is no other way [for them to serve] unless they return home.”

By law, all able-bodied South Korean men between the ages of 18 and 35 are obligated to serve in the military for up to two years.

BY KIM SO-HEE, HYUN IL-HOON [kim.sohee0905@joongang.co.kr]

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