Twelve college students in South Korea have been accused of deliberately making themselves overweight to dodge the country’s mandatory military service.
According to the Military Manpower Administration, the students consumed pizza and hamburgers five times a day, as well as protein powder and large amounts of juice ahead of their physical examination.
All 12 students are classical music majors in a Seoul university, AFP reported.
The juice they allegedly took contained aloe vera pulp, which presumably stays in the body much longer than other food.
Physical examinations determined that the students were unfit for service, with one gaining 30 kilograms (66 pounds) in a course of six months. As such, they were ordered to take government service posts.
Two already finished their duties, while four are in the process. The rest are waiting for assignments.
The group’s stunt was discovered through digital forensic findings, which supposedly revealed conversations in KakaoTalk planning the conspiracy.
Some allegedly suggested “high-calorie protein shakes, supplements and drinking a lot of aloe juice to retain water weight,” Korea Herald noted. Others encouraged acting “crazy.”
All South Korean men between the ages of 18 and 35 are required to serve in the military for a minimum of 21 months. However, exceptions are made for those too overweight or underweight and those diagnosed with certain medical conditions.
In such cases, subjects are assigned to social services, including those in courts and libraries.
The mandatory conscription has long been slammed by critics who claim that it ruins careers and violates the human rights of those who refuse based on religious beliefs.
Meanwhile, those who conscientiously decline service often end up in jail. South Korea imprisons more people who object to military service than the rest of the world combined, according to Amnesty International.
If convicted, the students will receive criminal punishment, retake the physical examination and serve in the military.
“The Military Manpower Administration, via thorough investigation, will do our best to root out military service evasion crime and make an example of the violators so that a fair and just military service culture can take root,” the military said.
Despite crackdowns, things could be different for future conscripts.