Even top celebrities with massive followings face a potentially career-destroying backlash if seen to be taking liberties with the demands of military service.

Just as he was about to be called up in 2002, Korean-American pop singer Steve Yoo gave up his Korean nationality and became a naturalised US citizen.

The South Korean government considered it an act of desertion and he was deported and banned from returning for life.

Pop icon Rain was pilloried last year when it emerged that he had been allowed to slip out of barracks on several occasions to meet an actress he was dating.

And "Gangnam Style" star Psy was forced to serve twice after it emerged he had furthered his showbiz interests during his first stint.

Left-wing activist Kim Young-Ik was imprisoned in 2009 for refusing his military service but, unlike many Jehovah's Witnesses, he lacked the natural support network of equally devout family members and friends.

"My parents went through a lot," Kim recalled. "They came to accept my decision, rather than support it, but they were very worried about what it would mean for my future."

But Kim, now 31, said he would take the same stand again if given a second chance.

"It's wrong that anyone should have to go to prison for their beliefs, but I gained from the experience and it grounded me as a person," he said.

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