SEOUL. Oct. 10 (Yonhap) -- To the public's great disappointment yet again, dozens of legal but unfair cases of draft dodging that involve the abandonment of nationality have been disclosed among the sons of high-level government officials.
A Military Manpower Administration report on Tuesday showed that 33 children of incumbent senior officials gave up their Korean nationality in favor of foreign permanent residency rights or citizenships over the past five years, in an apparent bid to duck their home country's obligatory military service.
The officials included heads of government agencies, national universities and local governments, the typical "Establishment" in our society.
In South Korea, military service is one of the four national duties along with education, labor and tax payment as the country stiffly confronts bellicose North Korea in a prickly armistice since the 1950-53 Korean War. All able-bodied men over 19 are obliged to serve in the military for about two years.
Despite that, draft-dodging scandals have never ceased, with young men involved in the scams employing various kinds of illegal methods to avoid conscription, ranging from faked injuries to forged medical and academic documents in collaboration with doctors, brokers and military officials, albeit such acts invite harsh punishments of up to five years in jail.
Nationality renunciation as a way to eschew military service is nothing new. Some 15,560 South Koreans aged between 18-35 abandoned their nationality over the past five years, and 94 percent of those are suspected of having acquired foreign nationality to evade military service.
The current Conscription Law allows those aged over 37 to be exempted from military service. Making ill use of this, some draft dodgers have legally regained their Korean nationality after staying abroad until that age.
The draft-dodging by high-level officials' children is another example of the abuse of such legal loopholes, and reflects a consciousness rampant among the upper class and social leaders of putting their private interests before those of the public. It also displays a lack of noblesse oblige and discipline and indicates moral hazard among public servants.
The draft dodging is a big contrast to overseas Koreans' voluntary entry into the Korean army in a wish to gain pride as Koreans. That number has topped 1,000 over the past six years, although the volunteers have no obligation to serve as foreign nationals.
Draft dodgers who have evaded the sacred national duty through nationality abandonment should feel ashamed for their entire lives, and the conscription agency should be more active in ferreting out such evaders for social justice.