South Korean men aged 18-28 must serve in the military for nearly two years, but athletes who win medals at the Olympics or Asian Games are only required to complete basic training and compete in sports for 42 months. Recently, the South Korean football team was granted an exemption after winning gold at the 2018 Asian Games. In 2018, the South Korean Constitutional Court allowed conscientious objectors to perform civilian forms of military service. In North Korea, all men and some women serve in the military from age 17 to 30, except for children of political elites.
South Korean men have been required to serve in the military since 1957. Every male between the ages of 18 and 28 must serve, usually for nearly two years. Women are not drafted, but can enlist voluntarily. In an effort to win more athletic competitions, dictator Park Chung-hee decided in 1973 that athletes could get reprieves. Current regulations say athletes who win medals at the Olympics or gold medals at the Asian Games are considered Grade 4, only required to complete basic military training. Athletes are then required to compete in sports for 42 months, after which they are on reserve. Recently, English Premier League star Son Heung-min and the rest of the South Korean national football team were granted an exemption from military service after winning the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games.
Thanks for your athletic service:
Famous classical musicians have also been granted exemptions in the past. In recent years, some have argued that exemptions should also be given to actors and members of K-Pop groups if they get enough international acclaim.
In 2018, the South Korean Constitutional Court found the military service law unconstitutional, instead allowing conscientious objectors to perform civilian forms of military service.
In North Korea, conscription has been the norm since 1950. All men and some women serve in the military from age 17 to age 30. Children of political elites are exempt.