The South Korean military will punish pop star Rain for meeting with a top actress while on duty during his mandatory military service, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.
Paparazzi photos showing Rain meeting with Kim Tae-hee have raised suspicions that highly sought-after entertainers may be receiving special favors during their military service. The ministry denies Rain has received special treatment.
Rain, an "entertainment soldier," however, broke rules by meeting with Kim at least three times late last year despite being on duty, ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. Rain is not allowed to have such private meetings while outside his base for official duties like recording and performing.
Spokesman Kim said a ministry committee will meet next week to decide the punishment. He said it was unlikely to be detention in a military jail, one of the more serious penalties for South Korean soldiers that can delay their discharge.
Military service is a sensitive issue. All able-bodied South Korean men must serve about two to three years, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. Any allegations of special treatment can spark an immediate public outcry.
"Gangnam Style" sensation PSY joined the army in 2008 to spend two years fulfilling his service after authorities found he had abused a law allowing him to serve in a private company instead of a military outfit.
Rain, a 30-year-old actor and singer whose real name is Jung Ji-hoon, joined the military in October 2011 and is scheduled to be discharged in July. He is an army corporal.
Rain's agency has not denied or confirmed that he has dated Kim, but the actress's agency has acknowledged a month-old romance. Kim, 32, is hugely popular in South Korea and commands a large number of fans in Japan.
Rain has made seven albums and acted in several South Korean films. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2011. He made his Hollywood film debut in "Speed Racer" in 2008.