Militar reserve force in Korea.

Sooin Moon

In Korea, every healthy and viable man must fulfill their obligatory military period. They must serve about 21 months and more, depending on where you apply for. After their service, they will come back to society as a member of the reserve force.

What is the reserve force? It’s a way to keep Korean army’s defensive power up at lower cost, by periodically training discharged men to be battle ready if needed. Every man who has fulfilled his military service, will be a member of this force for the next 8 years, hence, attending annual military training. Today, this annual military training is our main subject.

Why am I talking about this? During your time as an exchange student, there will be days when you’ll barely see any Korean male students. They won’t be in class, and might even miss team meetings suddenly. But at the end of the day, you will see most of them drinking and hanging around Wangsimni in their military uniforms. This will definitely confuse may students. Unless you are from a country where you see people in uniform often, some students might think something bad is happening, when they’ve simply taken a day off at school and was at military training.

The entire process is like this. First, the discharged student/man will receive an email that tells you to come to the assembly area on a certain day, usually their universities for students. Say, that day is friday. Then he will have to prepare things like your old military uniform. On the scheduled day, he will go to school early in the morning and will see around a hundred or more people gathered in the school’s indoor gym. There, he’ll likely meet some friends and people who you most likely met through group projects or different classes.

At camp, the training is composed of around 8 to 10 different parts. Each soldier will be assigned to or can form a group of 10, from which you will choose one as a leader of the group and another as the second leader. Your team will have to chose which training the group wants to take first and last. It takes some good strategy to finish the training early and go home early.

From my experience, the most memorable and time consuming trainings are these.

First, shooting guns, both screen shooting and real shooting. The former usually is basically a game, in which the amount of ammo is restricted and teams have to shoot down enough enemies to earn points to pass the game. The latter, it doesn’t take too much time, as the commanders don’t want problems occuring in the shooting range, so they finish the practice as fast as possible. However, it is also about shooting a target, which if you miss more than 4 bullets out of 10, you have to re-take the test.

Then, there’s mock city battles, where people wear gears with laser receivers and laser guns. Then, each team gets 3-minute strategy time before they go in to the “city”, fighting against another team. There’s an announcer who keeps track of who’s dead, by looking at the laser receivers’ reactions from getting shot. Again, if a team loses, they have to retake it.

For the finale, I usually go for the obstacle course, where teams have to go through a small hill with wires, many kinds of trenches, and buildings to pass. At the top of the hill, there’s a commander, waiting for us, to teach us how to use wired bombs.

When the training is over, they will head back to school in the same bus they came in with their group members because that’s the way you will be discharged for the day. Arriving at the school, it is very common to say let’s have a drink, and have a fun time talking about what happened during the training and more.

In the end, everyone will head back to their home, realizing that they will have to study extra hard, to make up the clases or the group meetings they’ve missed. So, if you see your missing classmates in uniform, just grab a drink with them and hear what interesting stuff they have to say.

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