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South Korea Table of Contents

South Korea

Recruitment, Training, and Conditions of Service


Army troops participate in offshore training exercise.
Courtesy Republic of Korea Army

All males, except for a small percentage of individuals considered physically or socially undesirable for military service, could be drafted into the army. In 1990 there were 407,000 males nineteen years of age who were required to register for military service. Approximately 9.2 percent of these young men were rejected for conscription for one of the following reasons: having a physical or mental disability; possessing a criminal record; being an orphan; and being born out of wedlock or having one parent who was not a South Korean citizen. Conscripts were required to have at least an elementary school education; 77 percent of those drafted had at least a high school education.

The Military Manpower Agency was responsible for assigning recruits to the army, navy, marines, the Korean Augmentation of the United States Army (KATUSA), and the combat police units of the Korean National Police. Recruits could request assignment to a particular service and were assigned based on their education, technical skills, and physical condition. About 85 percent of eligible recruits were drafted for periods of between thirty and thirty-six months. Candidates for the KATUSA program were required to be high school graduates with some English-language training. In 1990 approximately 5,000 men in KATUSA served with the United States Army units in South Korea. In 1990 the air force was an all-volunteer force.

The conscription system was flexible and allowed most young men to plan their service in a way that would promote their individual career goals. High school graduates who had been accepted into a college or technical school or who were attending such schools were granted deferments. Conscripts with good education records and aptitudes suited to particular military specialties were selected to be trained as specialists in combat support branches such as signals, ordnance, and engineers. Even conscripts assigned to combat, however, were encouraged to take classes during their terms of duty to prepare for employment when they left the service.

The army, navy, and air force each had a full range of recruit training centers, schools for technical military occupational specialties, and officer training courses. Army recruits were transported from provincial induction centers to one of the Second Army's recruit training centers for basic training. Each branch of the army had one or more schools that offered curricula for enlisted personnel, NCOs, and officers. The large number of schools and the diversified training programs available to servicemen supported the army's need for skilled personnel to use, maintain, repair, and resupply combat forces during wartime. The air force had schools for pilots, air technicians, communication and electronics specialists, aircraft maintenance specialists, and air traffic controllers. The navy had its own schools oriented to the needs of the three fleets and the marine corps.

All officers and enlisted personnel were closely supervised and had to obey strict security regulations that limited their contacts with civilians, including their own families. All military personnel were provided with food, clothing, housing, and medical services. A variety of entertainment and recreational programs were organized on military installations to reduce boredom and promote the physical health and morale of service personnel.

Data as of June 1990