Korea: February 3, 2002


Conscription is still king in Korea. While countries around the world are dropping the practice and converting to all volunteer forces, the two Koreas still insist on all eligible young men to serve from 36 months (South Korea) to six years (North Korea.) Evading the draft is a popular goal for many Korean men. In the north, this is very difficult, although if your father is a high government official, something can be arranged. For other northerners, risking your life to get across the heavily guarded border will work. In the south, things are a little easier. Bribing officials for an exemption is possible, but increasingly dangerous as anti-corruption sentiment rises. Even young men who were taken overseas when their parents immigrated are still liable for conscription when they turn 19. But this has become a problem in the south (there are no legal migrants from the north), where children of migrants become naturalized citizens in their new countries. Some have done this to avoid conscription, particularly some 200 popular Korean-American pop stars. The government considers this unpatriotic draft dodging and is beginning to bar these young men (who have done nothing illegal by becoming American citizens) from entering South Korea. 


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