South Korean pop icon Rain has come under fire after news media reported that his relationship with a TV actress suggested he might be flouting the terms of his compulsory military service.
Rain's relationship with Kim Tae-hee, a major TV drama star with a huge following in Japan, was first reported on Tuesday by a tabloid magazine, sparking a fan frenzy on entertainment websites and social networks.
The magazine published photos showing Kim, 32, wearing a cap and surgical mask, getting into a car driven by the singer, who is halfway through the two-year military service that is mandatory for Korean men.
"They are currently getting to know each other with feelings for each other," Kim's agency said in a statement later on Tuesday, confirming the two had been dating for about a month.
Fan excitement over the match-up between two of the country's most high-profile celebrities was tempered by questions over how the couple had managed to have numerous dates over the past four weeks.
During military service, Korean men are confined to their barracks and given little free time.
"I don't care whoever Rain dates ... but what kind of soldier gets Christmas holiday, where most guys toil shovelling piles of snow at the frontline units in bitter cold?" said one online critic.
One of the pictures of the couple showed Rain, 30, driving a private car in military uniform, contrary to service guidelines, and not wearing his army beret.
The defence ministry's website has been bombarded with messages calling for Rain to be disciplined, with more than 3,000 people signing an online petition urging an investigation.
Rain, real name Jung Ji-hoon, has been serving as an "entertainment soldier" who appears on military-run TV and radio.
A defence ministry spokesman insisted Rain had earned a holiday in line with military rules.