J-Hope’s Promotion: Understanding The Military Ranks In South Korea

Everything you need to know about the military ranks new recruits can achieve.

If you’re a fan of BTS, you may have heard that J-Hope was recently promoted to the role of training assistant as part of his mandatory military service. Not too long ago, fellow member Jin was celebrated for rising to a new rank too — and they’re not the only stars climbing up the army ladder. But just what are all these ranks and classes, and what do they mean for the idols? Let’s delve into a simple explanation of progression within South Korea’s military enlistment system.

BTS members greeting J-Hope before his enlistment. | @bts_twt/Twitter

Soldier ranks

In the Korean military, the term “byeong” is used to describe soldiers holding junior enlisted ranks. Within this category, there are several rungs to climb on the ladder, and each one signifies a degree of growth and progress.

The lowest rank is “ideungbyeong” or “ibyeong”, the starting point for every serviceman in the Korean military. Fresh from boot camp, this rank is where our beloved idols learn the basics of being a soldier. Think of it like being a trainee in K-Pop terms.

In fact, soldiers at this rank are often referred to as recruits or trainee soldiers, as they’re going through training and learning the ropes of military life. It’s a time of adjustment, discipline, and camaraderie, and idols’ dedication and commitment during this period will be crucial in shaping them into competent army men.

J-Hope before his enlistment. | Weverse

Progressing to the next level, we’ve got “ildeungbyeong” or “ilbyeong.” Like an idol making their debut, ilbyeong has started to gain some recognition and earn their stripes.

Soldiers at this rank are comparable to “private first class” in other countries. They are still at an early stage in their army career, but they receive more responsibilities and opportunities for leadership. For fans, it’s always a pleasure to see idols growing in confidence and respect within the military community at this stage.

Jin soon after his enlistment. | Weverse

Next up is “sangdeungbyeong” or “sangbyeong,” which you can think of as akin to the time when an idol gets their first music show win. By this time, recruits have adjusted to military life and are no longer seen as newbies, striding confidently in their service.

This rank represents a significant step in the military hierarchy, equivalent to a corporal in other military systems. At this stage, idols may take on more important tasks that put their considerable knowledge and experience to use.

| Weverse

Finally, the pinnacle of beyond is “byeongjang”. This is the end of any soldier’s “rookie” phase in the military and the rank at which most idols remain until they finish their service. This signifies full integration into the military, where soldiers are ready to take on bigger challenges.

Achieving this rank is a milestone for any young Korean man and a testament to all their hard work and determination. The same goes for all steps in the progression, which is why fans are always happy to celebrate how high their idol is climbing.

SHINee’s Minho during his enlistment.

Military specialties

As big of a deal as ranks may be, military service isn’t all about rising up the ladder. There’s also an interesting array of specialties soldiers can dabble in when they join the army — just like how an idol can specialize in singing, dance, or rap. Each brand of the military, from the Army to the Air Force, has its own classes and special roles that stars and everyday servicemen alike can choose to pursue.

J-Hope, for example, was recently appointed to serve the role of “jogyo,” also known as training camp assistant or assistant drill instructor.

J-Hope | The Camp

To score this coveted role, men need to prove their mettle in physical fitness, leadership, and military knowledge. The position is highly competitive, with only a limited number of soldiers chosen at each division. To be considered, idols must apply while undergoing training and face a rigorous selection process, including a physical examination as well as an interview. Only those who exhibit outstanding performance and meet the strict requirements have the opportunity to serve as assistants.

J-Hope | The Camp

The assistant drill instructor plays a crucial role in disciplining recruits and demonstrating training exercises. In this position, soldiers like J-Hope help to guide newbies through their training, help them adjust to the new environment, and assist both recruits and superiors in making the process smooth.

Aside from this role, there are numerous more classes and specialties to choose from. Some soldiers, for example, may choose to become “unjeonbyeong” — military drivers who train and specialize in vehicle operation, maintenance, and the transportation of personnel equipment and supplies. Others may opt for more high-octane positions like “bangsubyeong,” the combat engineers who train to handle everything from constructing forts to clearing mines. There are even seemingly un-army-like roles, such as graphic designer in the military.

Jin also chose to become an assistant drill instructor. | Weverse

While each class is different, they all play an important role in ensuring the effectiveness, readiness, and capabilities of the South Korean military.


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