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Military Service in South Korea

‌   Military service in South Korea has existed since 1957 and it requires their male citizens between the ages of 18 and 35 to perform about two years of mandatory military service. Women are not required to do mandatory military service, but may enlist voluntarily. The requirements are that when male citizen turns 18 years old, he is enlisted for “first citizen service,” meaning he is liable for military duty, but is not yet required to serve. When he turns 19 years old (or, in some instances, 20 years old), he is required to undergo a physical exam to determine whether he is suitable for military service.

   The service is mandatory mainly because of the relationship between South Korea with North Korea. After things intensified in the Korean War, a need arose for an active force for the South Koreans, so that the military could always be ready.

   There are several types of services. Active duty soldiers serve 21 months in the Army, Marine Corps 23 months in the Navy, and 24 months in the Air Force. After conscripts finish, they are automatically placed on the reserve roster and are obligated to attend a few days of annual military training for 6 years. There have been some ‌olympics medalist that were excluded from doing the military service. Current conscription regulations stipulate that athletes who win medals in the Olympic Games or gold medals in the Asian Games are granted exemptions from military service and are placed in Grade 4. They are required to do four weeks of basic military training and engage in sports field for 42 months. After that, they are automatically placed on the reserve roster, and are obligated to attend a few days of annual military training for six years. In practice, after athletes finish their four weeks of basic military training, they are able to continue their own sports career during the 34 months of duty. Exemptions from military service are the bronze medal-winning football team at the 2012 Summer Olympics, 2008 Olympic gold medalist badminton player Lee Yong-dae, swimmer Park Tae-hwan and 2014 Asian Games gold medalist tennis player Hyeon Chung.

‌   Public Servant Compensation’, implemented on 1 January 2017. Exchange rate as of 2 May 2018 (₩1077 to $1.00USD)






 $151.35 (approx)

Private first class


$163.79 (approx)



$181.06 (approx)



$200.56 (approx)

   Next, we can talk about ‌Koreans that have dual citizen. For those with multiple citizenships, male South Koreans must choose their citizenship by the time they turn 18, before March 31 of that year. If these males choose to revoke their South Korean citizenship, they will not be required to complete their mandatory military service. However, if they fail to choose their citizenship by their 18th year, they will be subjected to fulfill their mandatory military service. If males choose to renounce their citizenship by their 18th year, they are ineligible to gain a Korean work visa (F series) until after they turn 40 years of age. It may still be possible to gain an E series visa.

   There have been some ‌controversies about dual citizenship. The South Korean public is sensitive towards the country’s mandatory military service, but also has a low tolerance towards those who attempt to dodge or receive special treatment, especially after scandals of wealthy families caught trying to avoid their national duty. Those found or accused of draft dodging and negligence of duty often face harsh penalties and public backlash. For example in 2002, right before Korean American pop singer Steve Yoo was due to be drafted for his military service, he gave up his Korean nationality and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He was born in Seoul and migrated to the United States at the age of 13. The South Korean government considered it an act of desertion and deported him, banning him from entering the country permanently.

   Starting this year they made some changes aiming to make the country’s armed forces smaller but stronger. Under this scheme, the number of South Korean troops will decrease to half a million by 2022 from the current 625,000, which includes 483,000 Army service members. The service period of Army soldiers will be reduced to 18 months. “The complexion of warfare is changing. It’s not a format to depend only on troops as before,” she pointed out. “The military will continue investment in firepower to match modernization, while considering how to ease the youth’s burden for military service.” (Yonhap)

   As for the celebrities, a new amendment has been passed in an effort to make things more fair for all who have to enlist in the military. Korea’s Military Manpower Association (MMA) has introduced a new amendment to the Military Service Act that will make it impossible for male celebrities to delay enlisting for military service. The new amendment states that the MMA will now be directly managing the enlistment of celebrities. Those professions effected by this new amendment includes singers, actors, comedians, dancers, DJ’s, models, other broadcast personalities, and contracted trainees within entertainment agencies and athletics. Now all male celebrities who fall into one of these categories — born between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 1999 — are required to submit their personal information to the MMA. Entertainment agencies were notified of the new amendment so that they can prepare for the changes to come. Once the MMA calls for a celebrity’s enlistment, they must report by the assigned date and will no longer be allowed to delay their conscription. (Article 2017)

  Our group members interviewed some local citizens and asked about their thoughts on military service in Korea and recent changes. Their answers were as following: Old Man 1, he said, “Why do you ask whether we like it or not? The question is inappropriate because it is our responsibility to serve our country. We have to protect our country.” Then, we asked another question to the Old Man 2. We asked their opinions about the new rules regarding the military service in your country. He replied, “It is making our systems weaker. If you reduce the durations of the service, the youngster won’t fully learn how to serve and protect their country”. After that, we asked the younger generation regarding the new rules. They also disagreed about reducing the durations of serving. He said that, “The salary has been doubled, so why would you want to serve less? If you serve more, you have monetary benefits.” There were some positive and negative answers from both parties but this does not reflect the general of the korean men.

In conclusion, we believe that military service is important for every country to ensure their safety. South Korea has been doing it since the war with North Korea. Therefore, for their safety, mandatory military services has its share of responsibility. We also support the mentality of putting our respective nation first and foremost and taking pride in serving our country.


Team 5 FABULOUS Asia Student Summit 2018 Batch 2