Archana Goswami, New Delhi
South Korea has a policy of compulsory Military service, officially known as conscription. Conscription has existed since 1957 in South Korea. While it gives a hard time to some fans as they have to wait for nearly two years for their bias, it is considered a glorious moment to serve the nation for South Korean people. Military enlistment is an integral part of the lives of citizens of South Korea. So let’s get into the details of mandatory military service or conscription.
What is the purpose of Military service?
Conscription serves a long term purpose by training the citizens for war-like situations. It prepares the country with trained manpower and to meet the demands of the workforce if such a situation arise as well as in peacekeeping operations, humanitarian, and disaster-relief efforts.
Who all are eligible?
According to the Military Service Act of South Korea, all the able-bodied male citizens of the country between the ages of 18 and 28 are required to undergo compulsory military service for nearly two years. Generally, Korean men start their enlistment immediately after graduating from high school and complete their service in the early 20s. However, it is possible to delay their military enlistment until the age of 28 years, and in some special cases until the age of 30 years. The ages are considered according to the Korean age system. Military service is not compulsory for women in South Korea but they may enrol if they wish to.
What are the two types of services and their length?
Men joining the defence forces are allowed either to serve in active duty or non-active duty. Usually, all the able-bodied men, who don’t have any health or physical conditions serve in active duty. Men serving in non-active duty may work for the public service or other government services. The period of service for the non-active duty is 24-36 months depending upon the field of work. The active-duty refers to serving in either of the three branches of the Republic of Korean Armed Forces, namely The Army, The Navy, and The Air Force.
The period of service is different for different forces. It’s 18 months in The Army and the Marine Corps, 20 months in the Navy, and 22 months in the Air Force.
Who all are exempted from the mandatory military service?
It is expected that all male citizens of the country should serve in the military and any objection to this could lead to jail time. However, certain exemptions are made for those individuals who are dealing with some debilitating disease or have won awards on an international level for the country. The latter include athletes who have won medals in the Olympics or Gold medal in the Asian Games. It also includes exceptionally skilled classical music and dance artists who have won international competitions.
Individuals with health conditions are also exempted from military service, but the artists and athletes are just exempted from active duty. They are still required to complete their basic 4 weeks of military training. After this, they can continue with their careers, as they were active for at least 42 weeks but the annual military training remains compulsory for them as well.
How South Koreans view serving in the military?
The ones who complete their term of service are looked upon as respectable citizens of the country and it also sets the hierarchy among their generation. In a group of friends or at other informal gatherings. Those who complete their military duty early are considered of a higher hierarchy despite being of the same age.
Serving the nation instils a sense of pride among the citizens. So the next time you hear about the enlistment of your favorite male artist, don’t be disheartened, rather feel proud to be a fan!