Why Do Korean Men Have to Go to the Military?

군대 Military

Military service is mandatory for all men between the ages of 18 and 28 in Korea. The main reason that military service is mandatory is due to the need to maintain a strong national defense. South Korea technically remains at war with North Korea since the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice. 

Conscript? Apply?

According to Korean Statistical Information Service, there are about 36.5 million Army, 70,000 Navy, and 65,000 Air Force in Korea (as of 2022).

The Korean military can be largely divided into the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and only the Army has the conscription rights. People have to apply to serve in the Navy and the Air Force. 

Service Period

– Republic of Korea Army : 18 months
– Republic of Korea Navy : 20 months
– Republic of Korea Air Force : 21 months

Conscription Examination

The first thing Korean men have to do related to the military is a conscription examination. When Korean men turn 19, they undergo a conscription examination in order to be judged on whether they can carry out military service. Examination includes psychological and physical tests. 

  • Grade 1 ~ 3: Active duty
  • Grade 4: Social service personnel
  • Grade 5: Wartime labor service
  • Grade 6: Exempted from military service
  • Grade 7: Re-examination


Then, they receive a letter, the notice of enlistment, with the date and location of their enlistment 30 days prior to their enlistment. On the day, many young Korean men gather at the army training center to become soldiers.

Enlisted Ranks

  • 이병: Private / 2 months / 600,000 won
  • 일병: Private 1st class / 6 months / 680,000 won
  • 상병: Corporal / 6 months / 800,000 won
  • 병장: Sergeant / 4 months / 1,000,000 won

What about women?

Women are not subject to conscription and they have to apply to be a professional soldier. Therefore, they can apply as officers, warrant officers, and non-commissioned officers.

???????? Can you share about your country’s military service system?

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