Twelve music students in South Korea have been accused of conspiring to avoid compulsory military service by making themselves too fat.

The authorities said that the students used a social media messaging app to discuss how to fail the army's medical examination by rapidly putting on weight.

According to the Korea Herald, they ate high-calorie foods such as pizza and hamburgers five times a day, with one gaining 30kg in just six months.

The men, singers at the same college, also reportedly discussed drinking "high-calorie protein shakes, supplements and drinking a lot of aloe juice to retain water weight". Some also suggested acting "crazy" on purpose.

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All able-bodied South Korean men aged between 18 and 35 must serve at least 21 months in the army as part of the nation's response to the threat from North Korea. But those who fail the medical, for reasons which can include excess weight, are sometimes permitted to do less taxing community service instead.

Conscientious or religious objection is not allowed. At least 400 people per year are imprisoned for refusing on such grounds. Fleeing the country, causing self-injury or otherwise cheating to avoid conscription is also illegal.

It is believed the students feared their singing careers would be derailed by a long stint of national service, and that civilian social service duties would allow them more time to practise.

The Military Manpower Administration said it would thoroughly investigate the case of the singers. It promised to "make an example" of those who evade service, "so that a fair and just culture can take root".