A man walks down the stairs after a check-up at the Seoul Regional Military Manpower Administration in Shingil-dong, Yeongdeungpo, Seoul.
/ Korea Times photos by Shim Hyun-chul
By Shim Hyun-chul
“You’re fit for military service!”
The Seoul Regional Military Manpower Administration carries out year-round health check-ups and administrative registrations. Young nervous-looking men fill the room, each holding a registration card issued on arrival. It is called a “Love My Country Card,” which is also used for payment during national service. This process is the first encounter with conscription for all Korean men over 18.
The check-up involves tests of psychological and physical health, while the administrative process assigns new entrants to different posts, based on their backgrounds and preferences, in theory.
After a few hours, the men are divided into five different categories, in order of fitness: active duty, reserve duty, secondary reserves, eligible conscription status and secondary conscription status.
Once the system rules that the given man is eligible for active duty, he will enter the military the following year on a randomized basis, unless he has submitted requests for specific branches of service. Some of the possibilities include technicians, interpreters/translators, excavation specialists for the remains from the Korean War, among others.
This year, those subject to this procedure amount to about 356,000, according to the Military Manpower Administration (MMA). Times and dates are by default designated by the regional administrations but could be determined by those about to undergo this process.
Dodging military service has been a problem, like anywhere else. From this year, the MMA has tightened the ropes even further. Those without middle school education, until now had been exempted, will be enlisted. Men with exceptionally tall stature, hitherto categorized under secondary reserves, will be defined as those who stand taller than 2.04 meter instead of the current 1.96. Those with sexually-transmitted diseases are also now eligible for entry.