Former Korean Soldier Exposes The Bullying That Happens During Mandatory Military Service

It can be a difficult time for many Korean men.

Content Warning

This article includes descriptions of bullying and suicide or self harm that may disturb some readers.

Since it’s not commonly known what happens when Korean men serve eighteen months of mandatory military service, Korean YouTuber Kelsey The Korean spoke to one of her male friends who served in the special forces. While opening up about military life, he exposed the bullying that happens among Korean soldiers.

| Yonhap News

Because of the popularity of the K-Drama D.P. that spotlighted bullying in the Korean military, Kelsey asked if it was as bad in real life as it was portrayed on the show. He confirmed that it was concerning by saying, “Bullying was very common, very problematic.” He then shared an unfortunate situation that resulted from bullying.

Referring to it as the “Soldier Yoon Incident,” he shared the incident where a solider experienced bullying so severe that he took a gun, shot his fellow soldiers, and then fatally shot himself. Although the unfortunate incident caused movements for change, nothing changed within the military.

That soldier was in a base with so much bullying, so he committed suicide, which is pretty common. But the problem was, he shot guns [at] other soldiers beforehand.

— Former Korean Solider

The former soldier also shared some of the ways that Korean soldiers are bullied, especially by their seniors. Although they’re “banned from drinking,” their seniors will force them to break the rule and “force you to drink a lot,” which is extremely dangerous and could lead to death. Senior soldiers also asked questions they know soldiers will answer wrong, just so they could punish them.

The bullying Korean soldiers face isn’t only physical. When Kelsey asked if they were punished by “forcing you to hold a squat position” like in D.P., he denied “physical abuse cause it’s easy to spot and be reported.” Instead, they haze junior soldiers with stressful, impossible tasks and shame them in front of others.

Making it worse, they repeat the cycle whenever a new soldier joins them. He shared the mindset that senior soldiers have of going “through worse bullying” in the past and how they think “it’s so fun for them to bully the newbies.

Although the former soldier revealed that not every single Korean military base has such a “toxic culture,” that experience isn’t shared by the majority. Listen to Kelsey’s eye-opening conversation with a Korean male who witnessed such behavior here.