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[INFO] KOREAN MILITARY SERVICE DETAILS
Admin - Emerheliena
|Subject: [INFO] KOREAN MILITARY SERVICE DETAILS Thu Aug 06, 2009 12:14 am|| |
Since we are all familiar with the topic of Korean male celebrities entering the military service, I have decided to make a short introduction about what "MILITARY SERVICE" in Korean is really about.
The Mechanics of Serving in the Korean Military
This is the fact that is the most important in understanding how Koreans approach their military duty: Korea is still technically at war against North Korea. The Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. Therefore, the military administration in Korea operates on the assumption that there will be another war in the scale of Korean War, which killed several million soldiers and civilians.
One can say the military practice in Korea begins in high school, where there is a separate class for military drills, like Physical Education for example. However, military drills class has become less and less war-related in the recent years, getting to the extent that it now focuses more on emergency response than actual drills.
That aside, all Korean men between the age of 18 and 35 must serve a mandatory military duty. The length of the duty depends on where you go and what you do, but it used to be generally between 2.5 to 3 years. A new plan recently introduced would gradually shorten the length down to 1.5 years by 2014. Generally, Korean men elect to report for duty at the end of their second year in college, such that they may return to finish two years of the college. Usually you can defer enlistment as long as you are in school, up to age 24.
The question of “where you go and what you do” clearly is the most important one. Obviously military involves fighting on the frontline – and Korea has a long frontline against North Korea. To determine the assignment, all Korean men over the age of 18 must report to the local draft board to have a physical examination. The examination categorizes men into seven levels, and people below Level 5 do not have to serve in active duty.
Achieving Level 5 and below is fairly difficult; you really have to have some severe injury, such as a torn ACL, missing index finger, serious mental illness etc., to qualify. However, there are certain non-health related issues that would disqualify one from serving, generally described as “people who would create disharmony in the unit.” Interestingly, another group that falls into this category is people who have excessive tattoos, because tattoos are generally considered a sign for a gang membership.
Another group of people who are considered liable to create disharmony in the unit is non-ethnic Koreans or mixed heritage Koreans. Therefore, to answer A Teen’s question, no, naturalized Korean citizen would not have to serve. The Korean heard someone claim that naturalized Korean citizen may volunteer to serve, but he had not seen a policy that actually supports that claim.
Levels 1 through 4 must report for an active duty, which means they all go through 5 weeks of basic training. After the basic training, they are assigned to various posts throughout Korea. The Korean will list them from toughest to softest.
Instead of working as a plain soldier, draftees have the option of volunteering for tougher assignments such as the marines, paratroopers, Special Forces, military police, etc. Even after being discharged, these men tend to carry themselves with a lot of pride. (Read: “won’t shut up about it.”)
Then there is a regular infantry, most common in number. Part II of this series will describe their experience in greater detail.
But military is not just about going out to fight. Certain types of alternative service options, such as working as a part of the police force or the firefighting outfit, are also available. Also available are relatively less grueling positions, such as chaplain, judge advocate general, medics, interpreters, and assistant professors at the military academies. Obviously, a professional license is usually a prerequisite in getting such positions, which means some Korean men opt not to enlist in the middle of their college life and choose instead to study for the medical school, for example. There is even a semi-professional “military team” that plays as a part of sports leagues so that star athletes may continue playing during their service.
Probably the softest positions are the “defense industry” positions, in which eligible males would work for companies that contribute to the national defense for the length of the service. The process of being qualified for these positions – because it is perhaps the least physically grueling “military” experience – is somewhat shady. The companies that appear to be unlikely to contribute to the defense industry, such as KIS Pricing (a company that evaluates bond prices) or NHN, Inc. (holding company for Naver, Korea’s equivalent of Google), are allocated slots for the defense industry positions. Hiring for those positions are equally shady, as those positions are usually filled with the children of the wealthy and powerful.
Equally soft is the “Public Service Agents” positions, usually reserved for Level 4 people – those who qualify for active duty, but just barely. If you live in Korea, these guys are the men in green uniform working at a subway station or a local government office. Public Service Agents essentially work as a government clerk, and are subject to much ridicule by most other Korean men.
A bit of an anomaly is KATUSA, i.e. Korean Augmentation To U.S. Army. Draftees may volunteer for KATUSA if they score high on an English exam. Because there are usually more qualified applicants than available slots, there is a lottery process after the exam. As the name implies, KATUSA draftees serve their duty at USFK bases. KATUSA is also considered somewhat soft because you are allowed to go home at night and do not report on the weekends.
Of course, in addition to the draftees, there are career military men who enter the military academy or stay on after their mandatory service as a non-commissioned officer. ROTC is also a popular option, since you can enlist as an officer for your service.
After serving in active duty, Korean men are considered to be serving in an inactive duty. For eight years after the end of service, Korean men are supposed to report for a mandatory training up to 100 hours a year. In case of a war, Korean men in the 8-year period are drafted to fight. Also in case of a war, all Korean men between ages 18 and 45 are drafted for labor mobilization.
Credits to chechoki @ Tohosomnia for the banner/siggie & avatar
Last edited by Admin - Emerheliena on Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:42 am; edited 1 time in total
Admin - Emerheliena
|Subject: Re: [INFO] KOREAN MILITARY SERVICE DETAILS Thu Aug 06, 2009 12:19 am|| |
Training Center/Boot Camp
First comes the 5-week stint at the training center/boot camp. In the first three days, new recruits receive their supplies. These supplies include everything, including uniform, boots, and underwear. Strictly speaking, no soldier in the training center is allowed to have any private item – everything is provided by the military. In practice, soldiers in the training center are generally allowed to have a spare pair of glasses, a watch, a small amount of cash, etc. There is more leeway with respect to personal items once the men are assigned to their bases.
The recruits’ personal items – usually the clothes in which they come into the boot camp – are packed up and sent back to their parents. It is the quintessential Korean mother’s experience to cry over her son’s dusty clothes mailed back to her after she sent her son away for his military service.
New recruits are then given a physical. Although it is extremely rare to be sent home at this stage, there are a few whose health has significantly deteriorated below draft eligibility between the time when they received the initial physical and the time when they report to the training center. These men are sent home.
Then the new recruits receive an exam that would determine their specialty as a soldier. This is based on their college major, career background, etc. However, this is far from a scientific process; more like a rough guess. For example, many math majors are assigned to artillery because firing a cannon requires a quick number-crunching ability. But it is not as if these men are tested as to how fast they can actually calculate things.
Once the specialties are assigned, the new recruits are trained to be soldiers. They receive their weapons, learn how to shoot rifles and throw grenades, learn how to march and patrol, etc. It is more or less the training you might see in a movie – they go through marches with full gear (around 55 to 60 pounds) during the day and at night, learn how to fight with bayonet, train how to use their hazmat masks and sit through tear gas, learn how to dig trenches and encamp, learn first aid, etc. After five weeks of this, the soldiers are assigned to their bases.
At the Base
The long haul begins at the bases. The life at the bases can differ vastly depending on where the base is, and what your specialty is. The unanimous worst placement is the bases in the mountainous range in eastern Korea, along the Armistice Line. Staring directly into North Korea, these soldiers must constantly patrol in the blistering cold, often in minefields. In comparison, soldiers assigned to a supply center base in the southern parts of Korea have an easier time. Training continues to happen at the base, but the intensity of such training is vastly different depending on the specialty. However, at least once a year, every soldier goes through a pretty intense combat training.
Amenities differ significantly from base to base as well. The luckiest few bases sometimes have karaoke, Internet café, arcade, etc, as well as indoor plumbing and shower facilities. The unlucky ones will have outdoor plumbing, no hot water, and only a dirt field that doubles as a soccer pitch. Generally each squad shares a single room to sleep in, and the room tends to have a television. Of course, the channel showing on that television is entirely up to the sergeant, who is usually the highest-ranking officer in a squad.
A little more explanation on soccer in the base is warranted, because it is such a universal part of the military experience. The soccer experience is called “Gundaesliga”, a parody of “Bundesliga” or the Federal League in Germany. (“Gundae” is Korean for “military”.) Because soccer is popular in Korea, and also because the game can entertain 22 men with a single ball, playing soccer is nearly a ubiquitous experience for all Korean men who served in the military. Each squad would usually play as a team, sometimes with each sergeant of the squad betting snacks or drinks. Long discipline process such as running several miles, etc. usually awaits the losing team. It is said that for a gifted soccer player, life in the military comes easily. Because inter-squad soccer games factor so much into the military life, the ranking soldiers take it a little easy on the star players.
When it comes right down to it, daily life at the base is rather boring. Assignments range from serious (patrolling) to petty (cleaning the base), but they generally end by 5 p.m. After 5 p.m., soldiers play soccer, read, study, or generally do anything to kill time.
Soldiers enter the base as a private, and gradually move up the rank up to sergeant over time. Sergeants, since they are closing in on finishing their duties, are known to be lazier and more slovenly in their uniforms.
Furloughs are permitted intermittently throughout the soldier’s career. It starts with the “100 day furlough” – time outside, usually for 4-5 days, given after 100 days of military service. After that, soldiers get the total of 10 furlough days for the rest of their time in the military. In addition, there are special furlough days given out as a reward for a variety of things – ranging from something important like good marksmanship to something trivial like being the crowd favorite in the battalion talent show. A squad mate of the Korean’s friend won a furlough day for randomly saluting at a helicopter flying nearby, which happened to carry a general who saw the salute. Soldiers are also given furloughs for personal circumstances, e.g. death in the family.
Soldiers can have visitors, but usually they need to ask for permission ahead of time. To answer Shiela’s question, soldiers can also receive packages. But keep in mind that all packages will be searched, and soldiers are expected to share any food coming from outside with their squad mates. If you are sending food, send plenty and in small packets.
Also, soldiers get paid in nominal amounts. Privates receive around $55 a month, and sergeants receive around $80 a month or so.
Life at the Base, and Aftermath
So, now we know what the nitty-gritties are in the Korean military, but what is it really like? Obviously, this answer strongly depends on the particular assignment and the superiors, but some common elements exist – emphasis on hierarchy, working as an organization, and learning to tolerate loads and loads of bullshit.
After all, these soldiers are in the military. And military does not function without the willingness of lower-ranking soldiers to follow the directions of higher-ranking soldiers. Therefore, in a regular squad, sergeants are kings. They control everything good in the squad, e.g. the first cut of the chocolate that a private’s girlfriend sent from outside the base, what channel the squad television would show, etc.
At one point, indiscriminate beating was commonplace in the military. Although (at least nominally) beating is not allowed Korean military anymore, there are plenty of ways in which the ranking officer can make a soldier’s life miserable. Other types of physical discipline such as running laps or Wonsan Pokgyeok (pictured in Part I) are plenty available, and there is virtually no limit to insults and condescension.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Korean army is a place with a ton of manpower, but little money. Therefore, even the most menial task – such as cleaning the pool of the general’s house – falls on the soldiers. Also, like other parts of Korean bureaucracy, professionalism is missing at times and rules are frequently bent in the Korean military.
This often results in many hilarious situations. For example, the Korean has a friend who spent his military years in the eastern mountain range in Korea. One day, the general decided that he would have fresh sashimi for his guest. The Korean’s friend and his squad mate drove in a truck for two hours to the shore, and managed to acquire fresh, live fish. But how to bring them home fresh and alive?
A normal person’s answer would be, “Rent a truck with equipped with a tank and an air compressor, the kind that would deliver live fish to sushi restaurants.” But remember, this is the Korean military. It does not have the money to rent such a truck, but it does have the manpower of two soldiers.
So what did the Korean’s friend do? He sat in the back of the truck, churning the water in the tub so that air would go in and the fish would be kept alive. (His squad mate got to drive the truck because he joined the military a few months ahead of the Korean’s friend, therefore outranking him.) This was in the middle of winter, and the truck bed was exposed to the freezing wind as the truck drove into the mountains. The Korean’s friend nearly froze to death, but the fish were alive until they were served on a plate that evening.
Stories of this type, coming out of Korean military, are dime a dozen. A brother of the Korean’s friend was in the Special Forces, and he recalls his platoon carving out a side of a mountain to build a swimming pool using only the tiny field spades. The Korean Uncle, a doctor specializing in internal medicine, routinely performed appendectomy as a medic in the military because, in his words, “I wanted to practice.”
For some of today’s Korean young men, who have gone soft since the days of their fathers, military experience can be unbearable. Physical exercise is grueling, the superiors can be arbitrary and insulting, and your squad mates could shun you if you are responsible for putting the whole squad in trouble. Given that these guys, just like any other soldiers in Korea, can access guns and grenades, it should be no surprise that recently there has been a string of incidents in which a draftee shoots up his squad or toss a grenade in the squad room, killing many.
However, most Korean men go through with the service without a huge incident. Few Korean men truly love their military experience. (Those who do have the option to stay in the military and continue their service as career soldiers.) But Korean men generally tolerate it and find life lessons to be learned from the experience, mostly because it is something that everyone has to go through.
And there are definitely good life lessons to be learned from the experience, although it may be debatable whether learning those lessons is a good use of 2 to 3 years of young men in their prime. To put it bluntly, the military experience builds Korean men’s tolerance for all the life’s bullshit. As the Korean described so far, there is no shortage of bullshit – some of them perhaps the worst to be encountered in life – in the military. Exhausting physical training, insults and condescension from the superiors, and wasting time on arbitrary and trivial errands are all part of the experience. For young Korean men in the military, there is no choice but to simply grin and bear them. Once they finish bearing it, they know that most difficulties in life would be easier than what they already went through. The combination of such tolerance and insight, some may call it maturity – because, as anyone who has had a regular job can tell you, life as an adult has a lot of crap that we must simply grin and bear.
SHARED BY: DTL
Credits to chechoki @ Tohosomnia for the banner/siggie & avatar
|Subject: Re: [INFO] KOREAN MILITARY SERVICE DETAILS Thu Dec 31, 2009 6:00 pm|| |
Now I know what the military service in Korea is all about...
Hmm. All males must go for this ne? It would be hard for artistes to go though. And as their fans, we sure don't want to let them go as it means that we'll not hear from them for a long time. Huhu...
[INFO] KOREAN MILITARY SERVICE DETAILS