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What Military Service Means For Kdrama Actors

BY Joan MacDonald | May 08, 2013 11:50 AM EDT

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Korea has compulsory military service and kdrama actors are not exempt.

All men between the ages of 18 and 35 must serve a term of between 21 and 24 months. While some men can apply for a reduced enlistment time because they are the sole support of their families, being a handsome actor is no excuse for shortening your service.

When to enlist is a difficult decision for many actors as these years are often the height of their careers, but waiting too long and enlisting in your 30s can mean you are less prepared for the rigors of military life.

Once you enlist, you have to serve. Actor and singer Lee Joon Gi asked for a postponement because he was shooting a film, "Grand Prix," and planning to appear in a drama "Faith." He had to withdraw from both projects to report for duty.

Ji Hyun Woo, who appeared in "Queen Inhyun's Man," did get a one-month's enlistment delay while he recovered from an on-set injury.

While everyone has to go through basic training, some actors do not wind up carrying out many late night patrols. For example, So Ji Sub, who appeared in "Ghost," served as a public relations officer. Lee Jin Wook, who stars in "Nine: Nine Time Travels," worked at the Defense Media Agency. Rain also served with the Defense Media Agency and was appointed Honorary Ambassador of the Military. Jo In Sung, while on active duty, played with a military band.

Some actors decide to deal with this responsibility early on. This year, promising young actor Yoo Seung Ho, who starred in "Missing You," decided to enlist. Although his career was on the fast track, the 20-year-old wanted to get his service over with. He has completed his five weeks of basic training and is now serving as an active duty soldier.

Scheming to get out of military duty is not looked upon too kindly. In 2004, when it was discovered that actor Song Seung Hoon tried to avoid being drafted by taking medication to fail the physical exam, he was reviled in the press. The reaction was so strong that he apologized and enlisted immediately, eventually earning the rank of corporal.

Nor is it a good public relations move to take advantage of your celebrity status to get more than your fair share of free time.

That's what Rain discovered recently when he met with his girlfriend, actress Kim Tae Hee. Although he is allowed to leave base for official duties such as recording or performing, that does not mean he can use the time to meet his girlfriend.

On the plus side, actors rarely seem to have any trouble getting back in the kdrama game. Their temporary absence can make them even more popular. By fulfilling their military service, actors may also provide some "fan service." Netizens often comment that the physical demands of active duty can do a lot to enhance an actor's appearance, helping their favorite star to have a "post-army body."

A good example, say netizens, is Lee Dong Wook in "The Scent of A Woman."

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