By Cho Jae-hyon
Popular singer and TV-show host MC Mong is no longer to be seen on TV. At the peak of his career, the entertainer, hit by draft-dodging allegations, has been ditched by every program.
Despite his strong denials, police have concluded that he had at least three of his healthy teeth plucked out to get himself disqualified from the draft.
It’s obviously one of the most ingenious and courageous draft-dodging methods ― it’s not easy to think of pulling out teeth and actually putting it into practice. But he did it and succeeded in steering clear of the mandatory military service.
He opted to sacrifice his teeth to keep the military service from ruining his career. Sadly, his trick did not work for long.
It’s the latest in a series of draft-dodging scandals in which entertainers have taken starring role. Influential public figures and celebrities tend to easily fall victim to the temptation that they can do away with joining the army.
Draft-dodging techniques are becoming sophisticated ― some pretend to be insane and others dislocate joints in their shoulders.
There are many policymakers who have been exempted from the military duty. From President Lee Myung-bak to a number of ministers, the Cabinet is dotted with members who were exempted. Former Prime Minister Chung Un-chan was one of them.
That’s why people call it “the Cabinet of the exempted.”
Yet President Lee, paying little attention to the public’s frustration, has nominated another of the exempted for the prime minister job.
At a confirmation hearing Wednesday, Kim Hwang-sik, a former Supreme Court justice and the current chief of the state audit agency, had to defend himself against allegations that he cooked his medical records to dodge the draft.
In 1972, Kim was exempted from the draft for a symptom in which one eye focuses better than the other. However, he claims that imbalance in his eyesight showed marked improvement in 1974. That year he passed a medical checkup to become a judge although the symptom usually requires long-term treatment.
No matter what evidence Kim will submit, the public ― long sick and tired of the continuous advent of nominees who got exemption from the military duty ― won’t or don’t want to buy what he says.
What’s important here is not whether he dodged the draft or not, but the fact that he is also one of the exempted. It’s hard to understand why the Cabinet should be crowded with members who have never served in the military.
Every young, healthy male here has to join the military. Of course it’s a place everyone wants to avoid if possible. As shown in the sinking of naval ship Cheonan that left 46 sailors dead, serving in the armed forces is fraught with life-threatening risks and dangers.
Many of those with the power to pull strings and peddle influence will do whatever they can do to get their sons exempted from the service.
Just days after Yoo Myung-hwan quit the foreign affairs minister job over nepotism allegations involving the ministry’s hiring of his daughter earlier this month, President Lee came up with the lofty idea of a “fair society.”
What is a fair society? It’s the one that is void of privileges and favoritism. It’s the one firmly based on fair rules of a game that are fairly applied to all members of the society.
President Lee, who previously trumpeted catchphrases like “pragmatic centralism” and “rule of law,” seems to be determined to make “fair society” his next signature catchphrase for the rest of his presidency.
In the real world, it’s simply a mission impossible. Lee’s attempt to publicize that his administration wants to steer the country toward a fair society looks so abrupt and unrealistic.
On Tuesday, wrapping up two months of its investigation into allegations that dozens of prosecutors were bribed and provided with sexual services from a Busan-based businessman, the independent counsel left suspicious heavyweight prosecutors unpunished, citing a lack of evidence and conflicting statements from witnesses.
The disappointing outcome of the investigation is the confirmation of what people already know: big fish stand above the law.
President Lee’s idea of a fair society doesn’t resonate with the public. It sounds an empty slogan. The definition of “fair” varies, depending on whom you ask.
Fairness is not a virtue that goes along well with a self-proclaimed pragmatist in the first place. And his attempt to find a trustworthy nominee for the premier job among those who have never set foot in the military will be unwelcomed by the public.
The position of prime minister has been vacant for nearly two months and whether the new nominee for the post will survive the confirmation hearing is unclear.
Even if he manages to pass the test, he is unlikely to win the hearts of the people. And MC Mong would feel it’s quite unfair.