It was supposed to be a happy case of new year, new love, but just two days after revealing that he had been dating South Korean actress Kim Tae Hee, 32, for the past three months, pop icon Rain, 30, has come under fire for allegedly receiving special treatment from the South Korean military.
Pictures of the couple getting into a car on online portals and entertainments news sites sparked an outcry amongst Korean netizens who felt that even a celebrity shouldn’t be entitled to so many days off while serving in the army. Enlistees are usually allowed 28 days of vacation over the course of their term, but Rain has reportedly been granted additional leave to rehearse and perform for military events and has left his base over 60 times in the past year.
One of the tabloid pictures of the couple showed Rain driving a private car in military uniform, contrary to service guidelines, and not wearing his army beret. Seoul’s defence ministry’s website has been bombarded with messages calling for Rain to be disciplined, with more than 3,000 people signing an online petition urging an investigation.
The defense ministry is looking to see if the singer has flouted any terms of his mandatory military service by meeting Kim while on duty; the furore sparked by questions over how the couple had managed numerous dates over the past few weeks.
According to Korean entertainment new website Dispatch, the couple met late in 2011 while shooting a commercial for social commerce website Coupang, and Rain’s agency has confirmed that they have been dating for about a month now.
“They went out on dates in parks and in the car while covering their faces with their hats and masks. Rain and Kim met each other every Sunday in December after he finished a radio program he hosts for the Defense Media Agency. Kim mostly came to pick him up using her car,” the news outlet reported. “They also spent Christmas together.”
According to military rules, he is not allowed to have private meetings while he is out of camp on official duties such as recording and performing in military TV and radio programmes aimed at boosting morale.
“I don’t care whoever Rain dates, but what kind of soldier gets Christmas holiday, where most guys toil shovelling piles of snow at the frontline units in bitter cold?” said one netizen.
“Rain has to serve twice, just like Psy did!” said another online comment, referring to the “Gangnam Style” singer who was forced to repeat his military service after it emerged he had furthered his showbiz interests during his first stint.
A defence ministry spokesman insisted Rain had earned holiday in line with military rules, but added that his army unit was “looking into the matter” given the public clamour. “We advise soldiers to wear proper military outfit including a beret during a holiday but a failure to do so is not a punishable crime.”
Born Jung Ji-hoon, Rain made his name throughout Asia after he started a solo singing career in 2002. After his last screen project R2B, he enlisted in Korean army’s Defence Media Agency from October 2011 and is set to be discharged in July this year.
Kim rose to fame after appearing in the SBS TV series Stairway To Heaven alongside Hallyu stars Kwon Sang-woo and Choi Ji-woo in 2003. She gained further recognition in Japan and throughout Asia after starring in the KBS blockbuster series IRIS in 2009 and is currently revving up for her next small screen project Jang Ok-jeong, Living In Love.
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