Friday September 24, 2021

Netflix series spurs controversy over South Korea's military conscription

The series follows military police assigned to capture deserters, shining a light on daily life for many conscripts
Web Desk
September 14, 2021
The series follows military police assigned to capture deserters, shining a light on daily life for many conscripts
The series follows military police assigned to capture deserters, shining a light on daily life for many conscripts

A hit Netflix series is reigniting a debate in South Korea over the country's massive military, its history of abuse scandals, and the mandatory conscription that fills its ranks with young men.

D.P.”, short for Deserter Pursuit, has been among the top Netflix shows in South Korea since it premiered at the end of August.

The series follows military police assigned to capture deserters, shining a light on daily life for many conscripts, including mental and physical abuse from other soldiers.

Director Han Jun-hee said he sought to tell a humanising story about how the system makes deserters both victims and criminals, as well as the toll it takes on those forced to do the hunting.

"'D.P' is a story of tracing a deserter, but at the same time, it is a paradoxical story of looking for someone's unfortunate son, brother, or lover," Han told Reuters in an email.

Asked about the popularity of the show, a defence ministry spokesman said that the military environment has changed and that the military has decided to stamp out abuse and harsh treatment. 

Last week, the military announced that even before the series came out, it had planned to do away with the system of having rank-and-file soldiers track down comrades who are absent without official leave.

That change will go into effect in July 2022.

South Korea maintains an active duty military of 550,000, with 2.7 million troops in reserves, amid decades of tensions with North Korea.

All men must serve for up to 21 months, depending on the military branch. - Reuters