Controversial Korean movie about military service law

The DP series is controversial about the scandals in the Korean military and the military service regime with most men in the country.

“Pursuing deserters” (DP) is one of the best-selling series in Korea since its premiere at the end of August. The series reflects the Korean military police’s pursuit of deserters and reveals daily life of conscripts here, including mental and physical abuse in the army.

Director Han Jun-hee said he sought to “tell a humane story” about the system that leaves deserted soldiers in a situation of being both victims and criminals, and at the expense of the participants. on a search mission.

“DP is a story about the hunt for deserters, but sometimes it’s also a contrasting story about finding someone’s unfortunate son, brother or lover,” said director Han.

The scene of South Korean soldiers kneeling and supporting their helmets in the movie Hunting Deserters was taken in September 2020.  Photo: Reuters.

The scene of Korean soldiers kneeling and supporting their helmets in the movie Hunting Deserters during filming in September 2020. Photo: Reuters.

When asked about the popularity of the DP series, a South Korean Ministry of National Defense spokesman said the military environment has actually changed and that the South Korean military is trying to prevent abuse and treatment. evil in the army.

South Korea’s military said that before DP was released, it planned to remove the system that allows regular soldiers to track down comrades who have deserted, which is expected to take effect from July 2022.

South Korea maintains a standing army of 550,000 men with 2.7 million in reserve. Almost all South Korean men have to do military service for up to 21 months, depending on the service. Deserters can face up to 10 years in prison.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the number of conscripts who deserted or were mistreated had decreased, largely due to the decision to allow soldiers to use mobile phones in the barracks from 2019, but declined to say how many. deserted soldiers.

South Korean media reported that 55 soldiers deserted in 2020 and 78 in 2019. The number of South Korean soldiers’ suicides decreased from 27 to 15 in the same period.

The DP series premiered in the context of South Korea’s controversy over the future of its military service policy. Many young Korean men think that they take time to perform military service while being able to study or work.

South Korea’s Supreme Court in 2018 ruled that some people can refuse to enlist on the grounds that it is unethical. South Korea’s National Assembly in 2020 passed a bill that would allow K-Pop stars to defer military service until they turn 30.

South Korea’s military was recently rocked by a series of sexual abuse scandals this year, prompting lawmakers to pass a law that would make sexual abuse and violence in the military handled by civil courts.

The actor plays a South Korean military policeman in the movie Hunting deserters in October 2020.  Photo: Reuters.

The actor plays a Korean military policeman in the movie Hunting deserters in October 2020. Photo: Reuters.

Korean veterans have mixed reactions to DP, some saying that the series reflects their military experiences, others deciding not to watch the film to prevent painful memories from flooding back. Some other veterans argue that the DP exaggerates military violence.

“A scene in the DP shows them throwing boots at a soldier. I’ve experienced similar harassment,” said veteran Ma Joon-bin, describing his 2013-2014 military service as “a period of time. dark”. “Looking back now, I think it was unfair, but it was common back then.”

Lee Jun-tae, 24, who served in the South Korean army from 2017-2019, said he had never experienced or witnessed any of his teammates being abused during his time in the army. “During that period, I didn’t experience any brutality,” Lee said.

Lee Jae-myung, presidential candidate for the ruling Democratic Companion Party, last week called the stories in the DP series a “barbaric history” of the South Korean military.

Hong Joon-pyo, the presidential candidate of the opposition Liberal Korea Party, said he was treated badly during his time in the army and pledged to change the policy of compulsory military service to voluntary service. if elected.

However, ending conscription cannot solve all problems in the South Korean military if military culture does not change, according to pop culture critic Kim Hern-sik, who once Join the hunt for deserters.

“If that culture is maintained, military life, whether conscription or voluntary, will be problematic, in one way or another,” Kim said.

Nguyen Tien (Follow Reuters)

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