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May 25, 2017

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Conscripts flipping pot stickers 'strange': premier

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Premier Lin Chuan said Tuesday that he found a new policy allowing alternative service conscripts to serve at local pot sticker chains to be "strange" and that the government would review the idea.

The Interior Ministry would evaluate why such alternative service had been OK'd, Lin said, adding that he had only learned about the policy when reading about it in the newspaper.

The ministry drew criticism from lawmakers over the weekend after it increased the number of conscripts who could do duty in the service industry — including at a local fried dumpling chain.

Lawmakers argued that the scheme allowed conscripts to be utilized as cheap labor to benefit private industries.

Interior Minister Yeh Jiunn-Rong said Monday that selected conscripts would "not be on the front lines" of potsticker preparation duty as part of their service requirements.Yeh defended the policy by saying that it gave conscripts training opportunities and that the manpower was greatly appreciated by the service industry.

The ministry has expanded the areas in which conscripts can serve beyond government institutions, including in the tech, science and service sectors. This year's 74 service industry allocations include restaurant chains, cable companies and convenience stores.

In Taiwan, all males aged 19 to 36 — barring those who receive physical exemptions — are required to complete military or alternative service.

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