All About Enlistment—6 Details That Will Help Understand the Hows And Whys Of Enlistment in South Korea

Everything you’ve wanted to know about Korean enlistment.

BTS‘s enlistment has brought about a lot of discussions, especially from international fans who do not fully understand the significance of enlistment. To South Koreans, it is a matter of patriotism and honor to serve one’s country.

Gene Kim, a former Associate Producer of Insider, an American online media company, produced a video about his military enlistment experience. His content and other information sources will answer the usual questions about enlistment.

Here are six facts that will shed light on the relevance of enlistment or conscription, as it is sometimes called.

1. Why Korean males need to enlist.

Korean males are required to perform compulsory military service to strengthen South Korea’s active military force to be ready against any sudden attacks. Article 39 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea states, “All citizens shall have the duty of national defense under the conditions prescribed by the Act.”

| Gene Kim/Insider

2. Age of Enlistment

Upon turning eighteen, compulsory service in the military comes into effect for Korean males, though they are not required to start immediately. It is possible to delay the starting date until the age of twenty-eight. Famous idols and actors usually wait since it may negatively impact their careers. Most Korean men complete their compulsory military service in their early twenties.

Korean men usually finish high school and complete one or two years of university studies first before starting their military service. In rare cases, some wait till they graduate college before they start their military service.

3. Exemptions for Military Enlistment

Upon turning 19 or, in some cases, 20, Korean men must undergo an Impairment & Disability evaluation to determine suitability for military service. The evaluation will end up with a military grade ranging from Grades 1 to 7, with Grades 1 to 3 being healthy enough for active enlistment duty and Grades 4 and 5 for supplemental service based on qualifications. For Grade 6, enlister is to be exempted from military service, and Grade 7 is recommended for follow-up physical examination within two years due to any disease, or mental or physical incompetence.

Those not in good health can complete military service through non-active duty, such as social work or other services for the government. Those with debilitating diseases, such as diabetes or other conditions, can be totally exempted from military service.

K-Drama actor Yoo Ah In was exempted from military enlistment due to a bone tumor diagnosis | @honsick/Instagram

Exemptions can be granted to those with exceptional skills, such as classical musicians, ballet performers, and athletes who have won medals in the Olympics or gold medals in the Asian Games.

Instead, these individuals will complete four weeks of basic military training and continue their careers for 42 months. After this period, they will be required to attend a few days of military training every year for the next six years.

4. What happens during enlistment?

Military enlisters first go through a graded five-week training. After passing this training, they get assigned to their battalion, where they will serve the remainder of their enlistment term.

| Gene Kim/Insider 

5. Term of military service

Tenure of service depends on certain factors, such as the branch of service or non-active duty assignment. The service period for Army and Marines is twenty-one months, the Navy is twenty-three months, and the Air Force is twenty-four months. For non-active duty, it’s twenty-four months for those assigned to social work or international cooperation, thirty dour months for industrial technical personnel, and thirty-six months for those completing their service as doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, or expert researchers.

6. Military Enlistment Evasion

Evasion is a punishable crime. The most common evasion tactic was extreme weight loss or gain (37%), fabrication of mental illness (23.7%), and deliberate full-body tattoos (20.3%). Studying abroad or migrating overseas to secure foreign citizenship are the preferred option for sons from wealthy families. At the same time, nearly a hundred high-ranking politicians, including sitting members of the National Assembly, arranged unexplained exemptions for their sons. These evasion cases differ from conscientious objection on political or religious grounds.






Source: 90 Day Korean, Wikipedia and Insider