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Military will punish S. Korean pop star

The South Korean military will punish pop star Rain for meeting with a top actress while on duty during his mandatory military service, the Defence Ministry said Thursday.

Paparazzi photos showing Rain meeting with Kim Tae-hee raised questions that highly sought-after entertainers may receive special favours during their military service. The ministry denies Rain has received special treatment.

Rain, an "entertainment soldier," met with Kim at least three times late last year, ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. They occurred even though Rain is not allowed to have such private meetings while outside his base for official duties like recording and performing.

The spokesman did not say what kind of punishment Rain would be decided when the ministry meets next week. However, he said it was unlikely to be a brief lockup in a military jail, one of more serious penalties for South Korean soldiers that can delay their discharge.

All able-bodied South Korean men must serve about two to three years in the military, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. 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 a corporal.

Rain's agency neither denies nor confirms 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.

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