On October 17, BTS announced that they will enlist for their mandatory military services, starting this year with Jin. Although Jin had reportedly submitted his notice to cancel his military postponement, there hadn’t yet been any further update on when he would enlist.
While replying to a fan, Jin recently suggested on Weverse that he would begin his mandatory military service sometime before his birthday, December 4.
Fan: Oppa, your birthday is next month. Are you excited?
Jin: No… I’m up on the front line.
In his reply, Jin also indicated that he had been drafted into a front line division.
While Jin hasn’t specified the exact division or province he has been assigned to, here is everything you need to know about most South Korean front line divisions.
What happens during enlistment?
When a Korean man first enlists, he undergoes an initial training period of five weeks at a “training center” before receiving a final base assignment.
Typically, most Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) enlistments go through the Korea Army Training Center in Nonsan in the South Chungcheong province. These trainees are then assigned to a final division (base) to serve the rest of their duties after the training period. Other enlistments are taken through individual divisions across the nation.
If assigned to a division-operated training center, the trainee will complete training and continue to serve in the same division or, potentially, in a nearby division. Generally, it is random where a newly-enlisted soldier gets stationed.
The five-week enlistment training period includes training in military posture, combat skills, and first aid.
Where are the training centers?
The below map lists the different “divisions” that accept new trainees across the eight provinces of Korea.
The Korea Army Training Center in Nonsan is in the purple region. The divisions considered a part of the “front line” belong in the provinces of Gyeonggi (orange) and Gangwon (yellow).
It is worth noting that not all of the divisions in Gyeonggi and Gangwon are actually a part of the front line.
What are front line divisions?
In Jin’s reply, he technically used the term “forefront line” (choijeonbang, 최전방); the two forefront line divisions are Guard Posts (GP) and General Out Posts (GOP). These two divisions are considered the most dangerous frontline bases.
However, Jin was likely referring to simply the “front line” (jeonbang, 전방) in his reply, as that is how Koreans commonly interpret the choijeonbang area.
GPs are distinct from GOP as they refer to a frontline post guarding the Souther Limit Line. GPs are inside the DMZ, and GOPs are outside the DMZ. Due to GPs’ security needs, private groups, such as the media, have little access to the bases.
Soldiers can apply to join a search team and search company during boot camp. The team is selected based on the results of the training center and interview scores, and transfers are not permitted.
Who gets assigned to division-operated training centers?
Previously, it was said that soldiers with their Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) get assigned to Nonsan’s Korea Army Training Center. In contrast, those who do not have MOS are assigned to division-operated training centers. This, however, is not always the case.
For enlisting soldiers who do not have MOS, their assignment is typically based on residency. If an enlisted soldier is a registered resident of metropolitan (Seoul, Gyeonggi) or Gangwon provinces, they are generally assigned to front line divisions.
What are the front line divisions like?
Front line divisions house over 70% of ROKA’s forces. It is more common for enlisters to go through the front line division-operated training centers than through Nonsan.
Compared to metropolitan and rearguard divisions, front line divisions are more likely to be isolated from society. The regions for front line division soldiers to vacation are also considered slightly more restricted.
How difficult are the initial weeks at the training centers (in winter)?
Winter enlistments in the front line divisions, especially in the Gangwon province, will likely face extreme cold and other climate-impacted struggles, such as hot water shortages. Some Gangwon province division-operated training centers battle constant, consecutive snowstorms during the winter months. Soldiers are often ordered to rise early and complete snow removal duties.
According to WorldData, “Gangwon-do is one of the coldest regions in South Korea, with an average daily high temperature of only 18 degrees centigrade. The climate widely corresponds to Central European weather conditions. It is cold and wet… Less attractive are the cold months from November to March.”
What is it like to serve in the military?
According to Gene Kim, who “served the Korea military between the years of 2009 and 2011,” he made it through his time in the military “just [waiting] for my time to pass.”
You learn to move very fast. When you’re ordered something, you have to run to get it, you have to run to do it. And if you hesitate, you get picked on for that. If you get around five minutes of rest, then you’re happy with that. You re-learn things that you thought you already knew. There’s a certain way to eat. There’s a certain way to stand. There’s a certain way to talk to people. There’s a certain way to do everything in the military.
— Gene Kim
While serving in the South Korean military, Gene Kim believes he “gained a few things.”
I learned that if you really put your will and just do it, then I can really achieve… I feel like I can achieve anything.
— Gene Kim
You can read more about South Korea’s military service here.