South Korean prosecutors said Monday that they had indicted 137 people on charges of attempting to evade the country’s mandatory military service, including charges for those aiding such offenses, vowing it will beef up efforts to prevent these crimes from happening in future.
Among those indicted were the sons of lawyers and doctors, musicians, actors, professional athletes, an entertainment agency chief, as well as a number of local military brokers who helped men attempt draft evasion, according to Seoul Southern District Prosecutors' Office. The indictments come at the end of a three-month-long joint probe with the Military Manpower Administration launched in December 2022.
“(The draft dodgers) meticulously crafted scenarios that would make them exempt from military service by paying fees to local brokers. The joint investigation team has also collected 1.6 billion won ($1.22 million) in criminal proceeds from them,” said Koo Sang-yeop, deputy chief prosecutor of the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors' Office, during a press briefing.
Koo said that Korean prosecutors had directed the joint investigation into the draft dodging scandal, dubbed the “epilepsy scandal,” where draft evaders contact local brokers to fake disabilities that would disqualify them from their mandatory duties on the basis of health issues.
“We have severely punished (those indicted) considering their social responsibility. The prosecution and MMA will continue to work closely to improve and tighten the current conscription system,” Koo said, calling the act of trying to evade the military service in a nation where every able-bodied man has to serve is “a crime that should never happen in our society.”
Those indicted had allegedly contacted a broker and asked for help demonstrating false symptoms of epilepsy during a military examination. After submitting a fraudulent report of their diagnosis from doctors, they were deemed unfit to serve as soldiers in the army, allowing them to serve as social service agents instead.
Under the current conscription system, those in grades one, two and three are eligible to enlist for active duty service. Those in grade four can serve for supplemental or second citizen service, and those in grade five are enlisted for second citizen service.
Those excused from military service due to health issues are categorized in grade six, and those in grade seven are unable to be graded due to more severe disease or illness.
In the process, the prosecutors said the evaders paid an average of 3 million to 10 million won, adding that the two brokers, only identified by their surnames Kim and Koo, have pocketed 1.38 billion won and 218 million won, respectively. They said that rapper Nafla had paid around 25 million won.
Prosecutors also vowed to closely monitor online sites, explaining that many dodgers contacted brokers through social media and that they would raise awareness of the administrative affairs covering such military issues.
The number of South Korean men who attempt to avoid their two-year mandatory military service is on the rise, with the number of successful draft dodgers growing.
According to data provided by Rep. Song Gab-seok of the Democratic Party received from the Military Manpower Administration in January, 578 people were turned over to the prosecution for intentional draft dodging from 2012 until Nov. 30 last year.
All able-bodied South Korean men between the ages of 18 and 28 are required to serve in the country’s armed forces for 18-21 months.