Do all Korean men have to serve in the military?

Korea is one of the few divided countries in the world. Therefore, the conscription system is being implemented to maintain the military power necessary for war. Men, in particular, have a duty to defend themselves, and most men go to the army in their 20s. However, do all Korean men have to serve in the military? The answer is no. Only those with a certain physical class will serve in the military through the military service examination. 

Through this story, let’s find out how to select soldiers and how they work.

Draft physical examination for military service

In Korea, when they turn 19, all men must undergo physical examinations. This test determines whether you are in a physical condition to serve in the military. Men who have just become adults will go to the military service examination center near their area for two to three hours. Starting with basic physical examinations, including height and weight, through chronic diseases, intelligence-psychological tests, and blood tests, the examiners’ physical grades are divided. 

Physical examination grade

It’s a process of judging whether you can go to the army or not, but as shown in the figure, seven grades determine whether you can systematically perform your military duties. 

Enlisted in active service

Those in this class are required to serve in the military. The areas that can be applied are the Army, Navy, and Air Force, which is mandatory for the Army and Navy to serve for one and a half years, and the Air Force for one year and nine months. 

Supplementary service

In the case of grade 4, you will serve as a substitute instead of military service. The word “supplementary role” literally means, 

It refers to troops who are called up and trained as necessary to cover active-duty soldiers in case of emergency. They receive basic military training like active duty, but alternative service is carried out in various ways. In general, there is social service personnel who serve for a certain period of time in government offices or state-designated organizations, and those who have a lawyer or doctor’s license, they will serve as substitutes for three years. There are also cases where you work as a worker for a certain period of time at a state-designated company.

Wartime labor service

As the name suggests, those who fall under wartime labor do not have to perform their military duties except in wartime situations. But in the case of working conditions, they have to be called up to a munitions factory and work as laborers. 

Exemption from military service

Those who are exempt from military service are completely free from military service obligations. Those who have major restrictions on their daily lives due to physical or mental problems or who have been sentenced to more than six years in prison will be exempted from military service. 

Subject to reexamination

If it is unclear what grade to judge, you will be judged as level 7. Those in this class can be re-examined for up to two years for the same disease, and if grade 7 is determined after two years, they will be transferred to a grade 5 wartime work area. 

In this way, in Korea, military service judgment tests are conducted in seven grades to determine whether or not military service obligations can be fulfilled. All men have a duty to defend themselves. Not everyone performs their military duty. To sum up, not all men have to go to the army. It may be replaced by public duty, not military service, or if physical conditions are not met, military service may not be performed. 

What do you think about these systems?

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