On October 8, KBS NEWS aired a segment covering “the South Korean military’s special treatment toward K-Pop idols” who have been and currently are enlisted.

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KBS NEWS 9 | KBS

As it revealed that these idols spend an average of 82 days away from the base — which is 26 days more than the non-idol average, the channel reported, “KBS NEWS has analyzed the average number of vacation days spent by 11 celebrity-soldiers who completed their military duties in 2020.

The channel then openly discussed the actual number of vacation days spent by idols, mentioning them each by name.

A recently-discharged SHINee member Key spent 69 days on vacation. Actor Kim Min Seok, who became popular in the K-Drama series Descendants of the Sun, spent 88 days on vacation. BTOB’s Seo Eunkwang spent 108 days on vacation.

— KBS NEWS

While KBS NEWS explained that “These stars had been rewarded extra vacation days because they accepted requests to attend different military-related events“, the channel also pointed out that “There is always a question of fairness.”

It is left entirely up to the higher-level officers’ discretion on how many days these celebrity-soldiers receive as reward vacation days. While the Ministry of National Defense has amended policies limiting the total number of events a celebrity-soldier can attend in the duration of their services, it is simply impossible to stop the “special treatment” if executive-level officers signs off on them.

— KBS NEWS

The segment also discussed celebrity-soldiers receiving extra vacation days by petitioning for them. Any enlisted Korean man can petition for extra vacation days — especially if needed for medical reasons. KBS NEWS, however, insisted that certain idols benefited over tenfold the usual three days that an average soldier is usually granted.

An average soldier got around three days of petitioned vacation days. On the other hand, 2AM’s Jinwoon got 46 for treatment. SHINee’s Onew got 37 for his surgery, and former HIGHLIGHT’s Yong Joonhyung got 33. While medical reasons are indeed valid, it is questionable whether celebrity-soldiers take advantage of what average soldiers can’t.

— KBS NEWS

Shortly after it aired, K-Pop fans grew furious at the “irresponsible reporting” done by the channel. They criticized KBS NEWS especially for concluding the segment with a comment from the Ministry of National Defense verifying that “Nothing is wrong with how the extra vacation days have been granted.”

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SHINee’s Key in his military uniform, prior to his discharge on October 7.

Why did KBS even air this segment when the ministry confirmed nothing is wrong with the vacation days? It’s as if the program wanted to openly criticize the idols for no real reason.

— Netizen

Another fan argued, “The celebrity-soldiers are not at fault for this, the military is. They are, after all, only soldiers once they enlist. They respond to officer orders. If officers demand them at events, they attend the events. The extra vacation days are not special treatment because they are earned by being summoned all over the country, five days a week.

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BTOB’s Seo Eunkwang in his military uniform, prior to his discharge on April 7.

Moreover, fans strongly disputed the segment and urged the Ministry of National Defense to “stop exploiting the celebrities who enlist“.

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  • “This is ridiculous. The celebrity-soldiers are summoned everywhere and made to perform all kinds of shows. They get overworked and exploited… only to end up being criticized publicly like this… It’s the Ministry of National Defense that treat them differently in the first place.”
  • “Honestly, my bias got into a car accident while trying to attend a military musical. So… I don’t see how the celebrity-soldiers would be at fault for this. It’s not like they can say no to the officers summoning them to different events.”
  • “Excuse me. My bias attended so many military-related musical events that he needed rehab to heal his vocal cords during his so-called vacation days. But, oh how this segment makes it sound like he had one chill time serving his duty. He’s not the only one who suffered an insane schedule during service. And who raked in the money from these events though? Which ministry again?”