Korean pop rock band DAY6’s Young K, 27, enlisted in the military on Oct. 12 and bid goodbye to fans.
Young K will be serving as an active duty soldier under the KATUSA, or Korean Augmentation To the United States Army, becoming the first K-pop idol to be admitted to the soldier program.
KATUSA soldiers are recruited to augment US Army presence in Korea “to increase the ROK[Republic of Korea]/U.S. combined defense capability on the Korean peninsula.”
“The KATUSA Soldier Program is significant not only because of the military manpower and monetary savings that it provides to the U.S. Army, but also because it represents ROK/U.S. cooperation and the combined commitment to deter war. The KATUSA Soldier Program is also symbolic of ROK/U.S. friendship and mutual support,” according to Army in Korea Regulation 600-2.
The KATUSA program started in 1950 after the Korean War started through an agreement by Korean President Syngman Rhee and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, commander in chief of the United Nations Command (UNC).
Young K applied in the KATUSA Soldier Program last year and got accepted. Competition to enter the KATUSA Soldier Program is fierce. This year, only 1,760 soldiers including Young K were accepted to the program.
One of the criteria for admission to KATUSA is English proficiency. Young K was born in Seoul and left for Canada in middle school and studied there for four years and returned to Korea. He graduated from Cheongdam High School.
An applicant needs to have a TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) score of 780 or higher. Young K got a total score of 970 out of 990. Other English proficiency tests are used as criteria for admission to KATUSA.
‘I’m on my way’
Young K started a live broadcast on Naver on Oct. 12 as he was traveling to the Korea Army Training Center.
“I am on my way. I will take care of myself and thankfully, I am very healthy so please take care of your health. Of course, I will miss you guys. I had seolleongtang (ox bone soup) and it was very good. I had it with the boys,” he said.
Based on the guidelines by Korea’s Military Manpower Administration (MMA), Young K will undergo five weeks of basic military training at KATC and will undergo three weeks of military training at the KATUSA training center before he is deployed to his unit.
“All I’m asking is to stay healthy. Take care of yourself. I will do well. I will have a great time,” Young K told fans.
When fans asked what he was feeling about his enlistment, he said, “What I’m feeling right now…I’m not sad. It’s not sorrow. It’s not frustration. When you wish there was more, but, you know what, it’s just…bittersweet. Bittersweet might be it. I think bittersweet kinda describes that feeling.”
Young K revealed that he was going to the army last August.
“I heard this news quite a while ago. After I knew this day was gonna come, you know, I worked very hard. I did my best and this is my best. If somebody asked me, you could have done more, I’m sorry this was my best, I think,” he said.
He added, “I sang a lot of songs, I made a lot of songs, wrote a lot of songs. I filmed a lot of stuff. I was on radio a lot. So if you guys look back on it. You guys are busy people. So you guys have your stuff to do. You are a strong people so you won’t stay sad but just in case you get bored, there are a lot of stuff to watch and listen to.”
“While you are listening or watching that, time will pass by pretty quickly. Time does not flow at the same speed, I think. I will go now and I will come back soon, and we will say ‘hello’ with a smile. See you soon,” he said.
Young K will be discharged on April 11, 2023 or after 18 months.