South Korean Ministry Of Defense Eliminates Celebrity Soldier Unit: Sangchu, Se7en, 8 Others To Be Punished In Wake Of PR Officer Scandal
By Jesse Lent | July 18, 2013 01:37 PM EDT
South Korea's National Ministry Of Defense announced Thursday that they will be eliminating their controversial celebrity recruit unit of the public relations wing of their Defense Media Agency (DMA) started in 1997.
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"The promotional support brigade was set up to promote the military and raise the morale of soldiers, but due to the unpleasant issues that have occurred, the military's image has only been tarnished," read an official army statement, according to the publication Star News.
"It has also brought down the morale of other soldiers who have been diligently serving. As the purpose of the celebrity soldier branch [was] to promote the military, the public's faith is important, but due to various problems, we have only lost the public's faith."
Additionally, the Ministry Of Defense announced, eight soldiers from the celebrity soldier branch, including the K-pop singers Sangchu of the group Mighty Mouth and Se7en, would receive a severe punishment because of camera footage shot for the news program "Scene 21."
Seven of the soldiers will face severe disciplinary action and be relocated to the field near the Korean Demilitarized Zone, TENASIA reports.
The eighth solider, a corporal, will face more minor disciplinary action.
Several Defense Media Agency officials will also be punished for their mismanagement of the celebrity PR agent program.
"We fully realize responsibility for our insufficient management of the DMA and its soldiers," a Ministry Of Defense spokesman said.
"As a follow-up measure of the investigation results on the DMA, we have decided to abolish the institution [of the celebrity soldier branch]."
The "Scene 21" footage, which causes a public furor when it aired last month, showed members of the promotional support brigade wandering the streets after curfew out of uniform, chatting on their cellphones and purchasing alcohol at 2 a.m.
Sangchu and Se7en were filmed visiting a massage known for providing erotic services.
"The audit [of the celebrity PR agent program] revealed that the purpose of the unit has been tarnished and has lost the trust of the public," an army official told the South China Morning Post.
All eligible males between the ages of 18 and 35, famous or not, are legally required to enroll for between 21 and 24 months of army service in South Korea (the length of mandatory enrollment changes by several months depending on which branch of the military that they serve in) in a practice known as conscription.
There are currently 15 celebrity soldiers currently serving in the army as PR agents. Starting August 1, they will reportedly all be assigned to different units.
Civilian artists or amateurs from within the country's armed forces will now perform at any concerts organized by the South Korean army.
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