K-Pop Star Wins US Best Warrior Competition in South Korea

Kang Young Hyun KATUSA Day6
Pfc. Kang Young Hyun, a Korean Augmentation to the United States Army Soldier assigned to Eighth Army's Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, plots points on a map while participating in the land navigation course challenge held during the 2022 Eighth Army Best Warrior and Squad Competition at Camp Casey, South Korea, May 8, 2022. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Taylor Gray/20th Public Affairs Detachment.)

K-pop idol Kang Young-hyun, best known as Young K to fans of his group Day6, is a winner in the Eighth Army's Best Warriors competition in South Korea.

There's a lot to sort out there, so let's take things a step at a time and decode that sentence.

Best Warrior Competition

Forty-nine U.S. and Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army, or KATUSA, soldiers participated in a six-day competition that included events like an eight-mile march, small arms qualification, land navigation, water survival, obstacle courses, knot-tying and overall military knowledge.

The Eighth crowned winners in categories like best soldier, best noncommissioned officer, best officer and best warrant officer.

Why Is a K-pop Star in the U.S. Best Warrior Competition?

To understand that, you have to know about KATUSA. A select group of South Korean troops are assigned to units spread out through the Eighth Army and serve alongside American soldiers. The program has been in place since 1950, so ask an Army veteran who's been stationed in that Asian country what serving with KATUSA soldiers is like.

Kang competed in and won the KATUSA Best Warrior category.

Am I Supposed to Know Who Day6 Are?

K-pop music is a massive branch of the entertainment industry in Asia. Many Americans have heard about BTS ("Dynamite"), Blackpink ("Kill This Love") and Psy ("Gangnam Style"), but there are dozens of successful K-pop artists who are popular in the rest of the world but haven't seen the same success in the USA.

Day6 has enjoyed hits like "Zombie," "Shoot Me" and "Days Gone By" and distinguish themselves as musicians who play their instruments in addition to the dancing and singing required for K-pop success. In the video for "Days Gone By," Kang sings and plays the bass guitar.


Why Is a Pop Star Serving with KATUSA?

In South Korea, all able-bodied men are required to complete at least 18 months of military service. Many men get their service out of the way when they turn 18, but guys in the entertainment industry are usually just starting their careers and most delay the inevitable.

BTS might be the most popular South Korean performers in history, but even its members cannot avoid their service obligations. Though the government allowed them to delay enlistment as the group's popularity peaked worldwide, at least two members will be required to start their service at the end of this year or the beginning of 2023 if they don't get another exception.

Related: K-pop Stars BTS Set to Answer South Korea's Call of Duty

Day6 are successful, but they're not popular enough to get that kind of exception. Kang is one of four group members who have taken a break from pop stardom to perform their military service.

What's Next for Young K?

U.S. soldiers who won their competitions will advance to the U.S. Army Pacific's three-day Best Warrior competition starting July 19. Since Kang won a KATUSA-specific competition, there's no word as to whether there's a competition category for him at the upcoming games or whether he'll attend to support his fellow Best Warriors even if there's not.

Still, the young man has shown some potential for an outstanding military career. Show business is a tough life, especially when you're not at the top of the heap. Young K may never be the best K-pop star, but he's already a Best Warrior. Maybe he'll stick around and make a career in the Army.

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