Korean Women Flock to Military Careers

Despite stories of sexual harassment against female soldiers in the Korean military, interest in a military career among women has never been higher. In the face of ferocious competition for jobs, new statistics show that female students have found a military officer training program to be an ideal route to a brighter future, spurring debate about the purpose of Korea’s military and the abilities of female soldiers.

While young female officers profiled in a November 3rd report were optimistic about their future, online response was overwhelmingly negative. Stories of women becoming officers for the fringe benefits struck a nerve among those Koreans bitter about the unequal burden of military conscription for men.

Article From Newsis:

Facing a competitive job market, more female college graduates are setting their eyes on becoming commissioned military officers.

Female army officers candidate school (FAOCS) trainees training near the Army Cadet Military School in North Chungcheon Province.

Female army officers candidate school (FAOCS) trainees training near the Army Cadet Military School in North Chungcheon Province.

The difficulty of landing a corporate job has resulted in a growing number of aspiring female military officers. The rate of applicants to open positions was 6.4 to 1 as of 2012, prompting a surge in attendance at private academies that prepare students for a military career.

Ryu Da-hye, 25, said”I didn’t know how hard it was for women in their twenties fresh out of university to find a job until I submitted twenty job applications and didn’t get a single position. Frustrated, I saw my younger brother getting drafted into the army. It was at that moment that I thought, ‘This is it.'”

Ryu started her job search with confidence, believing her qualifications to be very competitive: a diploma from an intermediate-high-ranked university with a good GPA, experience serving as president of the student body of her college, volunteering and internship experiences, a decent TOEIC score(875), and other various certificates.

Six months later, to her frustration, the 25-year-old had failed to get acceptance at any of the 20 big firms to which she applied. Her only success was progressing to the final round of recruitment interviews at one of the nation’s top five companies, however she was cut at the last stage.

Despondent, Ryu began to look up the Korean Army Officer Candidate School (KAOCS) after her younger brother joined the military in August 2012. KAOCS is designed to bolster the number of commissioned officers in the military. Applicants are required to be university graduates and take tests before becoming commissioned officers, after which they serve for thirty-six months. In general, all able-bodied Korean men are required to serve about 21 months in the military.

“The primary reason for me to turn to the army was my difficulty in finding a job,” Ryu added, “A military career was something I had never considered at that time, but I have now taken this path.”

After looking online about the details of a military career and its fringe benefits, Ryu grew more attracted to the life of a female commissioned officer.

Afterwards, she started gathering information on the KAOCS program. In contrast to the reserve officers’ training corps (ROTC), where applicants take tests in the second year of university, receive military training for the remaining two years while they attend school, and then are commissioned as military officers for a 28-month term, the KAOCS program allows students to apply in their senior year of university or even after graduation. After undergoing written tests, physical tests, and interviews, successful applicants train to be commissioned officers.

Ryu cites the higher chance employment after finishing 36 months of military service as one of merits of the military recruitment program.

Ryu noted, “Big firms have a separate recruiting process for discharged commissioned officers. That process is less competitive than other employment procedures. I am also considering becoming a civilian worker in the military after my discharge.

Like Ryu, a growing number of female job seekers are looking to military service for stable employment after the failure to find a job in the private sector. Some of them seek a military career as a stepping stone to future employment after discharge.

Lee Yun-hye (alias) made up her mind in her senior year of university to enter a preparatory class for the KAOCS set up at her university. Lee made her decision after two years of failure in her job search.

25-year-old Lee’s decision was affected by her concern that she should start making money to relieve her parents of financial burden. She has two younger siblings who were in school at the time.

Lee believes that a woman with military experience will stand out from other jobseekers and imagines her confidence outshining other female job applicants during future job interviews.

According to the Korean Bureau of Statistics, as of September 2012, of women in the 25-29 age bracket, 6.2 percent were out of work, double the overall average unemployment rate (2.7%). The higher joblessness rate sets the stage for a remarkable rise in female applications for KAOCS, a program that has up until now been filled mostly with male applicants.

According to the Ministry of Defense, 2010 saw a total of 1,300 female applicants for KAOCS for the Army, Navy and Air Force, resulting in an acceptance rate of only 1 out of 4.6.

In 2011, the number of female applicants rose to 1,500 and saw an acceptance rate of 1 out of 5.5. In 2012, the figures increased again, to 1,900 applicants and 1 out of 6.4.

The growing popularity among women for the KAOCS has resulted in a jump in demand for private academies (hagwon) among women in their twenties.

A representative from such a hagwon said, “We have seen a growing number of women change their career paths to prepare for KAOCS after they discovered the difficulty of getting a job these days. KAOs are considered public servants, so it is popular among young women.”

Advertisement for a specialty military officer entrance exam hagwon

Advertisement for a specialty military officer entrance exam hagwon

“Last year we had about twenty women in our class for the KAOCS program, there are now 87, a more than four-fold increase,” the official went on to say.”

Experts blame the growing boom on corporations’ discriminatory recruitment against women.

Lee Joo-hee, a sociology professor at Ehwa Womans Univeristy, pointedly said, “Although it is beneficial for more women to get into military service, the increasing KAOCS applications by women can be seen as a testament to the discrimination that women suffer in corporate employment compared with men.”

The professor said, “More decent jobs need to be created, and firms should do away with discriminatory employment practices that give preference to male job seekers.”

Comments From Naver:


The job of a soldier is to defend the country, the army is not a place for those who failed to get a job. With that spirit, our country will get fucked in a war.


Just joining the military for fringe benefits? This country is sure in great shape.


I saw female soldiers taking a physical test, it’s easier than preparatory training at boot camp. They are not soldiers, they’re bureaucrats.


They’d better just go for nursing officers. We don’t need women who hate to do hard work.


I insist that the recruitment process for female officers be made on the basis of conscription, not volunteering so that they can get an easier job search.


I already finished my military service. Having a female soldier in the unit was really tiring. The privates have to build a toilet, a tent and washing place just for her when we went out for field training. I won’t complain if she takes active part in training with an esprit de corps, but she just gave orders to us and was playing with her phone behind our back.


Women join the army for career building, but men are hauled away into the army against their wishes.


How selfish these women are! Women refuse to get conscripted into the military and then they volunteer and build a career? Women in the military are hardly competent. When I see female military officers, commissioned or noncommissioned, they are both so incapable that people wonder how they got into the army in the first place.

Freshly commissioned female officers salute at their graduation ceremony in the Korean Army Academy in Yeongchen, North Chungcheon Province in 2009.

Freshly commissioned female officers salute at their graduation ceremony in the Korean Army Academy in Yeongchen, North Chungcheon Province in 2009.

Comments From Daum:


The fact that some women join the military using the KAOCS program is evidence that women can serve their country, so to achieve the gender equality that die-hard feminists are demanding they should enact conscription for women.

적절한 균형:

It is positive to see more women join the military. Shouldn’t it then be reasonable to make stubborn feminists serve in the military and give extra credit points during the recruitment process to those who finished their military duties?


The Supreme Court ruled against the extra credit point system for those who completed their military service, saying that the system could stoke gender inequality because some women who want to serve in the military have no way to get it done under the current system. Now the door to military service is open for women, including the KAOCS and a program for female non-commissioned officers.


Women can’t get into the military service as private soldiers but go into it as officers, positions which have a higher salary.


They will come to their senses if they serve as privates like men do, not officers who make more money and are more comfortable during their service.


The likelihood of superiors committing sexual assault is probably going to increase. How ridiculous is it that women join the military after failing to get a job? What a shame on the nation!

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